Inter Press Service » Latin America & the Caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:39:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Cuba Sees Its Future in Mariel Port, Hand in Hand with Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cuba-sees-its-future-in-mariel-port-hand-in-hand-with-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cuba-sees-its-future-in-mariel-port-hand-in-hand-with-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cuba-sees-its-future-in-mariel-port-hand-in-hand-with-brazil/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:16:51 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136278 The container terminal administrative building in the port of the Mariel special economic development zone in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The container terminal administrative building in the port of the Mariel special economic development zone in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Aug 22 2014 (IPS)

The Mariel special economic development zone, the biggest construction project undertaken in decades in Cuba, emerged thanks to financial support from Brazil, which was based on political goodwill, a strategy of integration, and business vision.

“Cuba would not have been able to undertake this project from a technical or economic point of view,” economist Esteban Morales told IPS. He added that the geographic setting makes the development zone strategic in terms of trade, industry and services in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Brazil financed the construction of the container terminal and the remodeling of the port of Mariel, which is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to handle cargo from Post-Panamax container ships that will begin to arrive when the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in December 2015.

Post-Panamax refers to vessels that do not fit in the current Panama Canal, such as the supertankers and the largest modern container and passenger ships.

The port, 45 km west of Havana, is located along the route of the main maritime transport flows in the Western hemisphere, and experts say it will be the largest industrial port in the Caribbean in terms of both size and volume of activity.

Construction of the terminal, in the heart of the 465 sq km special economic development zone, has included highways connecting the Mariel port with the rest of the country, a railway network, and communication infrastructure, and the port will offer a variety of services.

In the special zone, currently under construction, there will be productive, trade, agricultural, port, logistical, training, recreational, tourist, real estate, and technological development and innovation activities, in installations that include merchandise distribution centres and industrial parks.

The special zone is divided into eight sectors, to be developed in stages. The first involves telecommunications and a modern technology park where pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms will operate – two sectors which will be given priority in Mariel, along with renewable energies, agriculture and food, among others.

The Cuban government is currently studying the approval of 23 projects from Europe, Asia and the Americas for Mariel, in the chemical, construction materials, logistics and equipment rental industries.

The terminal was inaugurated on Jan. 27, and during its first six months of operation it received 57 ships and some 15,000 containers – small numbers compared to the terminal’s warehouse capacity of 822,000 containers. Post-Panamax vessels can carry up to 12,600 containers, three times more than Panamax ships.

Another economist, Pedro Monreal, estimates that the cost per container will be cut in half.

The lower costs, he said, will improve the competitiveness of Brazil’s manufactured goods, to cite one example. Mariel, where a free trade zone will also operate, could become a platform for production and export by the companies, even for supplying Brazil’s domestic market.

Heavy machinery prepares the terrain for a railway that will form part of the new infrastructure linked to the special development zone in the port of Mariel – the biggest project undertaken in Cuba in decades: Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Heavy machinery prepares the terrain for a railway that will form part of the new infrastructure linked to the special development zone in the port of Mariel – the biggest project undertaken in Cuba in decades: Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Although Decree Law 313, which created the special economic development zone, was passed in September 2013, the remodeling of Mariel began three years ago, led by a joint venture formed in February 2010 by the Compañía de Obras e Infraestructura, a subsidiary of the private Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, and Quality Cuba SA.

The container terminal is run by Global Ports Management Limited of Singapore, one of the world’s biggest container terminal operators, which has been working with the Cuban firm Almacenes Universales S.A, which is the owner and user of the terminal, and responsible for oversight of its efficient use.

The relationship between Cuba and Brazil is a longstanding one. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) did not hide his sympathies for the Cuban revolution, and has visited this country a number of times, first as a trade unionist and political party leader, and then as a president and former president.

Two packages of agreements signed in 2008 and 2010 between Lula and Cuban President Raúl Castro marked their interest in strengthening bilateral ties, an effort continued by current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

When she attended the inauguration of the terminal, Rousseff said the project would take 802 million dollars in the first stage, plus 290 million for the second stage. The first of Brazil’s loans was initially to go towards construction of the road, but the local government decided to start with the port.

The credit was granted by Brazil’s National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES). Havana provided 15 percent of the investment needed for the work.

“Cuba is a priority for our government, and Brazil is important to Havana,” the director general of the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments (APEX-Brazil), Hipólito Rocha, told IPS.

APEX-Brazil was created by Lula and Castro to promote joint business ventures with Cuba, the rest of the Caribbean and Central America.

Odebrecht is the most important company involved in Mariel, but diplomatic sources told IPS that a total of around 400 Brazilian companies are taking part in the project. “Between our countries there is affinity, political will, an interest in integration, but business matters are also important,” Rocha said.

He added that Cuba strictly lives up to its financial commitments with Brazil, and said bilateral relations “are solid, sustainable and bring benefits to our country as well.”

Analyst Arturo López-Levy said Brazil’s involvement in the Mariel project was decisive not only because of the investment. The political scientist, who lives in the United States, says the Brazilian government is sending a message to Washington and the European Union and other emerging powers that it backs the transformations underway in Cuba.

The presidents of China, Xi Jinping, and Russia, Vladimir Putin, also sent out signals when they visited Cuba in July, indicating their interest in expanding cooperation with Havana.

The two presidents stopped over in Cuba when they travelled to the sixth summit of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held Jul. 14-16 in Brazil.

The strengthening of ties promises greater access to the Chinese and Russian markets, attraction of investment in areas of common interest like the pharmaceutical and energy industries, and cooperation for the modernisation of strategic areas in defence, ports and telecommunications, López-Levy told IPS.

With respect to the possible interest of U.S. businesses in getting a foothold in the special economic development zone, and to an increase in pressure for the lifting of the five-decade U.S. embargo, the analyst said “the Cuban market awakens very limited interest in the United States.”

However, he said it was “clear” that U.S. investors are becoming more interested, especially Cuban-Americans.

“In order for this motivation to turn into political pressure against the embargo, the Cuban economy has to give out clear signs of recovery and of the government’s willingness, in key areas, to adopt a mixed economy with transparent guarantees for investors and export capacity,” he said.

Rocha has a somewhat different opinion.

“The embargo is going to collapse under its own weight,” he said. “Business will knock it down.”

It was seen as symbolic that the first ship that docked in the Mariel port after it began to operate brought food for Cuba from the United States – cash-only imports, which were authorised by the U.S. Congress in 2000.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cuba-sees-its-future-in-mariel-port-hand-in-hand-with-brazil/feed/ 0
U.S., Brazil Nearing Approval of Genetically Engineered Treeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-brazil-nearing-approval-of-genetically-engineered-trees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-brazil-nearing-approval-of-genetically-engineered-trees http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-brazil-nearing-approval-of-genetically-engineered-trees/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:35:52 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136255 By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Aug 20 2014 (IPS)

The U.S. and Brazilian governments are moving into the final stages of weighing approval for the commercialisation of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees, moves that would mark the first such permits anywhere in the world.

The Brazilian government is slated to start taking public comments on such a proposal during the first week of September. Similarly, U.S. regulators have been working on an environmental impact assessment since early last year, a highly anticipated draft of which is expected to be released any day.

Technician Christine Berry checks on futuristic peach and apple “orchards”. Each dish holds tiny experimental trees grown from lab-cultured cells to which researchers have given new genes. Credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service

Technician Christine Berry checks on futuristic peach and apple “orchards”. Each dish holds tiny experimental trees grown from lab-cultured cells to which researchers have given new genes. Credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service

Despite industry claims to the contrary, critics warn that the use of genetically engineered (GE) trees would increase deforestation. The approvals could also spark off a new era of such products, which wouldn’t be confined solely to these countries.

“If Brazil and the United States get permission to commercialise these trees, there is nothing to say that they wouldn’t just export these products to other countries to grow,” Anne Petermann, the executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) and the coordinator of the Campaign to Stop GE Trees, a network that Wednesday announced a new global initiative, told IPS.

“These GE trees would grow faster and be more economically valuable, so it’s easy to see how current conventional plantations would be converted to GE plantations – in many parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Further, both Europe and the U.S. are currently looking at other genetically engineered trees that bring with them a whole additional range of potential impacts.”

While the United States has thus far approved the use of two genetically modified fruit trees, the eucalyptus is the first GE forest tree to near release. Similar policy discussions are currently taking place in the European Union, Australia and elsewhere, while China has already approved and is using multiple GE trees.

The plantation approach

The eucalyptus is a particularly lucrative tree, currently the most widely planted hardwood in the world and used especially to produce pulp for paper and paper products.

In the United States, the trees would also likely be used to feed growing global demand for biofuels, particularly in the form of wood pellets. In 2012 alone, U.S. exports of wood pellets increased by some 70 percent, and the United States is today the world’s largest such producer.

U.S. regulators are currently looking at two types of eucalyptus that have been genetically engineered to withstand frosts and certain antibiotics, thus allowing for plantations to be planted much farther north. The company requesting the approval, ArborGen, says the introduction of its GE seedlings would quadruple the eucalyptus’s range in the United States alone.

ArborGen has estimated that its sales could see 20-fold growth, to some 500 million dollars a year by 2017, if GE trees receive U.S. approval, according to a comprehensive report published last year by the Washington-based Center for Food Safety. Likewise, Brazilian analysts have suggested that the market for eucalyptus products could expand by some 500 percent over the coming two decades.

Yet the eucalyptus, which has been grown in conventional plantations for years, has been widely shown to be particularly problematic – even dangerous – in monoculture.

The eucalyptus takes unusually high levels of water to grow, for instance, and is notably invasive. The trees are also a notorious fire hazard; during a devastating fire in the U.S. state of California in the 1990s, nearly three-quarters of the blaze’s energy was estimated to come from highly combustible eucalyptus trees.

In addition, many are worried that approval of the GE proposals in the United States and Brazil would, inevitably, act as a significant boost to the monoculture plantation model of production.

“This model has been shown to be very negative for local communities and nature, expelling and restricting the access of people to their territories, depleting and contaminating water sources – especially in the Global South,” Winifridus Overbeek, coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, a global pressure group, told IPS from Uruguay.

“Many of these plantations in Brazil have hindered much-needed agrarian land reform under which hungry people could finally produce food on their own lands. But under the plantation model, most of the wood produced is destined for export, to attend to the ever-increasing paper demand elsewhere.”

Overbeek says Brazilian peasants complain that “No one can eat eucalyptus.”

More wood, more land

Despite the rise of digital media over the past decade, the global paper industry remains a behemoth, responding to demand for a million tonnes of paper and related products every day. That amounted to some 400 million tonnes of paper used in 2010, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and could increase to 500 million tonnes per year by the end of the decade.

A key argument from ArborGen and others in favour of genetically engineered trees, and the plantation system more generally, is that increased use of “farmed” trees would reduce pressure on native forests. Indeed, ArborGen’s motto is “More Wood. Less Land”.

Yet as the world has increasingly adopted the plantation approach, the impact has been clear. Indonesia, for instance, has allowed for the clear-cutting of more than half of its forests over the past half-century, driven particularly by the growth of palm plantations.

According to U.N. data, plantations worldwide doubled their average wood production during the two decades leading up to 2010.  But the size of those plantations also increased by some 60 percent.

“While it sounds nice and helpful to create faster-growing trees, in reality the opposite is true. As you make these things more valuable, more land gets taken over for them,” GJEP’s Petermann says.

“Especially in Brazil, for instance, because we’ve seen an intensification of wood coming from each hectare of land, more and more land is being converted.”

In June, more than 120 environmental groups from across the globe offered a vision on comprehensive sustainability reforms across the paper sector, traditionally a key driver of deforestation. That document, the Global Paper Vision, encourages users and producers to “refuse fibre from genetically modified organisms”.

“Theoretically, arguments on the benefits of GE trees could be true, motivated by increasing competition for wood resources,” Joshua Martin, the director of the Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a U.S.-based umbrella group that spearheaded the vision document, told IPS.

“But ultimately this is an attempt to find a technological solution – and, we feel, a false solution given the dangers, both known and unknown, around this experimental use. Instead, we advocate for conservation and reducing consumption as logical first steps before manipulating nature and putting natural systems at risk of contamination.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-brazil-nearing-approval-of-genetically-engineered-trees/feed/ 0
Caregiving Exacerbates the Burden for Women in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/caregiving-exacerbates-the-burden-for-women-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caregiving-exacerbates-the-burden-for-women-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/caregiving-exacerbates-the-burden-for-women-in-cuba/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:46:05 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136246 Women buying food at a farmers market in the Playa neighbourhood of Havana. More than 98 percent of the unpaid domestic work and family care in Cuban homes falls to women. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Women buying food at a farmers market in the Playa neighbourhood of Havana. More than 98 percent of the unpaid domestic work and family care in Cuban homes falls to women. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Aug 20 2014 (IPS)

Hortensia Ramírez feels like she needs more hands to care for her 78-year-old mother, who suffers from arteriosclerosis, do the housework, and make homemade baked goods which she sells to support her family.

She starts her day at 6:00 AM, putting the sheets that her mother wet during the nighttime to soak, before preparing the dough for the pastries and making lunch for her two sons; one works in computers and the other is in secondary school.

“Two years ago I quit my job as a nurse because my mother couldn’t be alone, and although I have a brother who helps with the expenses, I provide the day-to-day care,” the 57-year-old, who separated from her second partner shortly before her mother started to need round-the-clock care, told IPS.

“Since then my life has been reduced to taking care of her, but it’s more and more complicated to put food on the table and to get her medication – and don’t even mention disposable diapers on my limited income…Well, let’s just say I end my day exhausted.”

Like the majority of middle-aged Cuban women, Ramírez feels the burden of domestic responsibilities and family care, exacerbated by economic hardship after more than 20 years of crisis in this socialist country.

The burden of caretaking traditionally falls to women, which sustains gender inequalities and makes women vulnerable to the reforms undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro since 2008, aimed at boosting productivity and the efficiency of the economy, but without parallel wage hikes.

The reduction of the number of boarding schools where students combine learning with agricultural work in rural areas, the closure of workplace cafeterias, and cutbacks in the budget for social assistance have left families on their own in areas where they used to receive support from the state, and which affect, above all, the female half of the population of 11.2 million.

“The state is passing part of the burden of caregiving and healthcare and education to families, but economic development should take into account the contributions made by families,” economist Teresa Lara told IPS.

If no one cooks, takes care of the collective hygiene, helps children with homework or cares for older adults and the ill, then the workforce won’t grow, the expert said.

Cuban women in the labour market

- In Cuba there are 6,976,100 people of working age, and the active population amounts to 5,086,000. Of the 3,326,200 women of working age, 1,906,200 have remunerated work.

- Women who work in the public sector are mainly concentrated in services, where they total 1,071,400.

- Over 31,000 Cuban women belong to cooperatives, 175,500 work in the private sector, and of this group, 73,300 are self-employed.

- And of the 1,854,753 homemakers, 92 percent are women.

- Of the 67,664 unemployed women in the country, 19,360 were heads of households.

Sources: Statistical Yearbook 2013 of the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) and Census on Population and Housing 2012

But these tasks, which almost always fall to women, remain invisible and unpaid.

Cuban women dedicate 71 percent of their working hours to unpaid domestic work, according to the only Time Use Survey published until now, carried out in 2002 by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

The study, whose results remain valid today according to experts, found that for every 100 hours of work by men, women worked 120, many of them multitasking – cooking, cleaning, washing and caring for children.

Based on those tendencies, Lara estimates that unremunerated domestic work and caregiving would be equivalent to 20 percent of GDP – a larger proportion than manufacturing.

And that percentage could be even higher today given the complexity of daily life in Cuba, the economist said.

Without laundries, dry cleaning services, industries that produce precooked foods or other services that ease domestic tasks at affordable prices, Cuban families have to redouble their efforts to meet household needs.

To that is added the rundown conditions of homes for the elderly and public daycare centres and the reduction of the state budget for social assistance, from 656 million dollars in 2008 to 262 million in 2013, according to the national statistics office (ONEI).

Women often end up stuck in lower level jobs, or dropping out of the job market altogether, because of the burden of caretaking for children, the ill or the elderly, on top of the other household duties.

Many women find it hard to cope financially with the burden of caregiving, in a country where the average monthly salary is 20 dollars a month while the minimum amount that a family needs is three times that, even with subsidised prices for some food items and services.

ONEI statistics show that the female unemployment rate rose from two percent in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2013, parallel to the drastic pruning of the government payroll, which could soon bring the number of people left without a job up to one million.

Although the number of areas where private enterprise or self-employment is permitted was expanded, they do not guarantee social security coverage. Nor do they tap into the expertise accumulated by women, who make up over 65 percent of the professional and technical workforce in this Caribbean island nation.

Sociologist Magela Romero says that burdening women with the social role of caretaker buttresses the unequal power relations between the genders, with economic, emotional, psychological and sexual consequences for women.

A qualitative study of 80 women from Havana carried out by the university professor in 2010, which IPS saw, concluded that a number of those interviewed were caught up in an endless cycle of caregiving: after they completed their studies they spent the rest of their lives raising children and taking care of parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, spouses and other family members.

This situation is especially complex in a country with an aging demographic, where 18 percent of the population is over 60 and 40 percent of households include someone over that age.

Adriana Díaz, an accountant, was only able to work in her profession for less than a decade.

“First my kids were born, and I raised them. Then I got divorced and I went back to work for four years, which were the best years of my life. But when my mother fell seriously ill, I quit again,” the 54-year-old told IPS.

Nearly nine years taking care of her mother round the clock left Díaz with a bad back and cardiovascular problems. Besides the fact that she is entirely dependent on her children, who moved abroad.

Social researcher María del Carmen Zabala says the gender gaps in employment that are a by-product of the fact that the responsibility for caregiving falls almost exclusively on women require policies that specifically address women, in line with the changes currently underway in the country.

Citing the rise in the proportion of female-headed households to 45 percent, according to the 2012 Census on Population and Housing, Zabala said specific policies targeting these families are needed, because they are especially vulnerable.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/caregiving-exacerbates-the-burden-for-women-in-cuba/feed/ 0
A Life Reserve for Sustainable Development in Chile’s Patagoniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/a-life-reserve-for-sustainable-development-in-chiles-patagonia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-life-reserve-for-sustainable-development-in-chiles-patagonia http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/a-life-reserve-for-sustainable-development-in-chiles-patagonia/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 22:45:32 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136213 A stand at the crafts fair in the city of Coyhaique. The production of locally-made ecological crafts from Patagonia is part of the development alternative promoted by the Aysén Life Reserve project. Credit: Marianela Jarraud/IPS

A stand at the crafts fair in the city of Coyhaique. The production of locally-made ecological crafts from Patagonia is part of the development alternative promoted by the Aysén Life Reserve project. Credit: Marianela Jarraud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
COYHAIQUE, Chile, Aug 19 2014 (IPS)

The people of Patagonia in southern Chile are working to make the Aysén region a “life reserve”. Neighbouring Argentina, across the border, is a historic ally in this remote wilderness area which is struggling to achieve sustainable development and boost growth by making use of its natural assets.

“The Aysén Life Reserve mega citizen initiative emerged as a theoretical proposal to have a special region with a special development model, one based on inclusive sustainable development, with and for the people of the region,” activist Peter Hartmann, the creator of the concept and of the coalition that is pushing the project forward, told IPS.

“Many people say we want to chain off the region, but our aim is to use its good qualities, versus the megaprojects of the globalised world, which want to destroy them,” he said.

The southern region of Aysén is one of the least populated – and least densely populated – areas in Chile, with 105,000 inhabitants. This chilly wilderness area of vast biodiversity, swift-flowing rivers, lakes and glaciers also offers fertile land and marine resources that are exploited by large fishing companies.“The model we are building is aimed at strengthening economic development on a local scale, in a democratic fashion, and not with models imposed on us – development that is cooperative and economically and environmentally sustainable in time, under the premise that we are all just passing through this life and that you have to give back what you take.” -- Claudia Torres

“We are tiny and insignificant in this enormous territory,” Claudia Torres, a designer and communicator who was born and raised in Aysén, told IPS with visible pride.

Patagonia covers a total extension of approximately 800,000 sq km at the southern tip of the Americas, 75 percent of which is in Argentina and the rest in Aysén and the southernmost Chilean region of Magallanes.

Patagonia is made up of diverse ecosystems and is home to numerous species of flora and fauna, including birds, reptiles and amphibians that have not yet been identified. It is also the last refuge of the highly endangered huemul or south Andean deer.

Although it is in the middle of a stunning wilderness area, Coyhaique, the capital of Aysén, 1,629 km south of Santiago, is paradoxically the most polluted city in Chile, because in this region where temperatures are often below zero, local inhabitants heat their homes and cook with firewood, much of which is wet, green or mossy, because it is cheaper than dry wood.

It is one of the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the country, where 9.9 percent of the population lives in poverty and 4.2 percent in extreme poverty.

But these figures fail to reflect the poverty conditions suffered by families in the region, the regional government’s secretary of social development, Eduardo Montti, told IPS.

“We are lagging in terms of being able to ensure basic living standards and essential services for the community and to make it possible for the different actors to develop in equal conditions as the rest of the country,” he said.

But, he added, in May the government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet established a plan for remote or impoverished areas which recognises the disparities with respect to the rest of the country, thus helping to more clearly identify the most urgent needs.

He said that in this region it is important “to move ahead in tourism enterprises, strengthen small local economies, share and participate in the development of our local customs, and help make them known to the world.”

“Many people say we want to chain off the region, but our aim is to use its good qualities, versus the megaprojects of the globalised world, which want to destroy them,” says Peter Hartmann, creator of the Aysén Life Reserve initiative in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“Many people say we want to chain off the region, but our aim is to use its good qualities, versus the megaprojects of the globalised world, which want to destroy them,” says Peter Hartmann, creator of the Aysén Life Reserve initiative in southern Chile. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Torres, an active participant in the Citizen Coalition for the Aysén Life Reserve, said the region is “one of the few that still have the chance to come up with a different kind of development.”

This is one of the few areas in the world that has largely kept its original wilderness intact. Much of the territory is under different forms of protection, including the Laguna San Rafael National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that contains a coastal lagoon and glaciers. The region as a whole is also seeking world heritage site status.

“The model we are building is aimed at strengthening economic development on a local scale, in a democratic fashion, and not with models imposed on us – development that is cooperative and economically and environmentally sustainable in time, under the premise that we are all just passing through this life and that you have to give back what you take,” Torres said.

She added that the project “is a dream and we are working to achieve it. Because people here understand that life itself is part of what makes it special to live here. For example, in this region you can still drink water from a river or a lake, because you know you won’t have problems.”

In her view, cities become dependent on, and vulnerable to, supplies from outside, and “the more independent you are, the better chances you have of surviving.”

“We don’t see this as a life reserve exclusive to Patagonians, but for the whole country. For example, I don’t have problems with the region sharing water with areas that suffer from drought.” But water for crops, drinking, or living – not for big industry, she clarified.

Chile’s Patagonians have a powerful ally in this endeavour: the Argentine side of Patagonia is fighting against the use of watersheds shared with Chile, by mining corporations.

“There is a common element in this big fight: water,” Torres said.

The two sides of the Andes share a long history of close ties and traditions which makes Patagonia one single territory, of great value because of its biodiversity – but highly vulnerable as well.

“We don’t feel like Chile, we feel like Patagonia…Chilean and Argentine,” Torres said.

From the start, the Aysén Life Reserve has shown that it is more than just an idea on paper. Hartmann pointed out that three community-based sustainable tourism enterprises have been established, financed by the Fondo de las Américas (FONDAM).

“We trained the communities in how to take care of their own territory, and in community-based tourism. That gave rise to a successful school for tourism guides,” he said proudly.

“Artisanal fishers from Puerto Aysén have also been making an effort to make their work more sustainable; there are exemplary garbage collection projects, and many crafts are being produced using local products, which is super sustainable,” he added.

Then there is “Sabores de Aysén” (Tastes of Aysén), a stamp that certifies quality products and services reflecting the region’s identity and care for nature. There is also a solar energy cooperative with a steadily growing number of members.

The Life Reserve project, Hartmann said, has two dimensions: awareness-raising and citizen participation. An Aysén Reserva de Vida label was created for sustainable products or processes, to make them more attractive to local consumers and visitors.

The idea of making the region a “Life Reserve” is cross-cutting and has managed to win the involvement of varied segments of society – a positive thing in a region that was highly polarised after 10 years of struggle against the HidroAysén hydroelectric project, which would have built large dams on wilderness rivers but was finally cancelled by the government in June.

The local population was also divided by the mass protests over the region’s isolation and high local prices of fuel and food that broke out in 2012, under the government of rightwing President Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014).

“There is greater awareness, and that is a step forward,” Torres said. “That means there is growing appreciation for what this region has to offer.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/a-life-reserve-for-sustainable-development-in-chiles-patagonia/feed/ 3
Despite Current Debate, Police Militarisation Goes Beyond U.S. Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/despite-current-debate-police-militarisation-goes-beyond-u-s-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-current-debate-police-militarisation-goes-beyond-u-s-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/despite-current-debate-police-militarisation-goes-beyond-u-s-borders/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 23:27:13 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136197 "Hands Up, Don't Shoot": A rally in support of Michael Brown. Credit: Shawn Semmler/cc by 2.0

"Hands Up, Don't Shoot": A rally in support of Michael Brown. Credit: Shawn Semmler/cc by 2.0

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in the southern United States earlier this month has led to widespread public outrage around issues of race, class and police brutality.

In particular, a flurry of policy discussions is focusing on the startling level of force and military-style weaponry used by local police in responding to public demonstrations following the death Aug. 9 of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.“We have a lot of military equipment and hardware looking for a place to end up, and that tends to be local law enforcement.” -- WOLA's Maureen Meyer

The situation has galvanised support from both liberal and conservative members of Congress for potential changes to a law that, since the 1990s, has provided local U.S. police forces with surplus military equipment. The initiative, overseen by the Department of Defence and known as the “1033 programme”, originally came about in order to support law-enforcement personnel in the fight against drug gangs.

“We need to de-militarise this situation,” Claire McCaskill, one of Missouri’s two senators, said last week. “[T]his kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”

In a widely read article titled “We Must Demilitarize the Police”, conservative Senator Rand Paul likewise noted that “there should be a difference between a police response and a military response” in law enforcement.

During attempts to contain public protests in the aftermath of the shooting, police in Ferguson used high-powered weapons, teargas, body armour and even armoured vehicles of types commonly used by the U.S. military during wartime situations. Now, it appears the 1033 programme will likely come under heavy scrutiny in coming months.

“Congress established this programme out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals. We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents,” Carl Levin, chair of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday.

“[W]e will review this programme to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

Drugs and terrorism

Despite this unusual bipartisan agreement over the dangers of a militarised police force, there appears to be no extension of this concern to rising U.S. support for militarised law enforcement in other countries.

While a 2011 law requires annual reporting on U.S. assistance to foreign police, that data is not yet available. However, during 2009, the most recent data available, Washington provided more than 3.5 billion dollars in foreign assistance for police activities, particularly in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories.

According to an official report from 2011, “the United States has increased its emphasis on training and equipping foreign police as a means of supporting a wide range of U.S. foreign-policy goals,” particularly in the context of the wars on drugs and terrorism.

In the anti-terror fight, African countries are perhaps the most significant recipients of new U.S. security aid. Yet a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlights the dangers of this approach, focusing on the U.S.-supported Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) in Kenya.

The report, released Monday, builds on previous allegations against the ATPU of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Yet neither the Kenyan authorities nor the ATPU’s main donors – the United States and United Kingdom – have seriously investigated these longstanding allegations, HRW says.

Washington’s support for the ATPU has been significant, amounting to 19 million dollars in 2012 alone. Yet while U.S. law mandates a halting of aid pending investigation of credible reports of rights abuse, HRW says Washington “has not scaled down its assistance to the unit”.

“The goals of supporting the police in general are laudable and in line with concerns over rule of law,” Jehanne Henry, a senior researcher with HRW’s Africa division, told IPS.

“The problem here is it’s clear that, notwithstanding the goals of the assistance, it’s serving to undermine rule of law because the ATPU is taking matters into its own hands. So, our call is for donors to be smarter about providing this kind of assistance.”

Unseen since the 1980s

Meanwhile, Mexico and Latin American countries have been seeing an uptick in U.S. assistance for security forces as part of efforts to crack down on the drug trade.

“Currently the Central American governments are relying more and on their militaries to address the recent surge in violence,” Adriana Beltran, a senior associate for citizen security at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a watchdog group here.

“While the U.S. is saying it’s not providing any assistance to these forces, there is significant assistance being provided through the Department of Defence for counter-narcotics, which is channelled through the militaries of these countries.”

According to a new paper from Alexander Main, a senior associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a think tank here, U.S. security assistance to the region began strengthening again during the latter years of President George W. Bush’s time in office.

“Funding allocated to the region’s police and military forces climbed steadily upward to levels unseen since the U.S.-backed ‘dirty wars’ of the 1980s,” Main writes, noting that a “key model” for bilateral assistance has been Colombia. Since 1999, an eight-billion-dollar programme in that country has seen “the mass deployment of military troops and militarized police forces to both interdict illegal drugs and counter left-wing guerrilla groups”.

Yet last year, nearly 150 NGOs warned that U.S. policies of this type, which “promote militarization to address organized crime”, had been ineffective. Further, the groups said, such an approach had resulted in “a dramatic surge in violent crime, often reportedly perpetrated by security forces themselves.”

Mexico has been a particularly prominent recipient of U.S. security aid around the war on drugs.

“From the 1990s onward, the trend has been to encourage the Mexican government to involve the military in drug operations – and, over the past two years, also in public security,” Maureen Meyer, a senior associate on Mexico for WOLA, told IPS.

In the process, she says, civilian forces, too, have increasingly received military training, leading to concerns over human rights violations and excessive use of force, as well as a lack of knowledge over how to deal with local protests – concerns startlingly similar to those now coming out of Ferguson, Missouri.

“You can see how disturbing this trend is in the United States, and we are concerned about a similar trend towards militarised police forces in Latin American countries,” Meyer notes. “We have a lot of military equipment and hardware looking for a place to end up, and that tends to be local law enforcement.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/despite-current-debate-police-militarisation-goes-beyond-u-s-borders/feed/ 1
Mexico’s Orphanages – Black Holes for Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:35:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136195 Children taken in by the Villa Infantil Irapuato, which has high standards of care – unlike many other orphanages in Mexico. Credit: Courtesy Laura Martínez

Children taken in by the Villa Infantil Irapuato, which has high standards of care – unlike many other orphanages in Mexico. Credit: Courtesy Laura Martínez

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

Homes for orphans or children in vulnerable situations in Mexico lack the necessary state regulation and supervision, which leads to scandalous human rights violations.

“The situation is very serious,” said Laura Martínez, director of the non-governmental Patronato Pro Hogar del Niño, in the city of Irapuato in the central state of Guanajuato, some 300 km north of Mexico City. “The higher interests of the children aren’t taken into account. Their rights are violated.

“There is no national census on where they are, who takes care of them, under which methodology. We should be well-regulated, well-supervised. The regulations are not followed and there is no legislation on this,” she told IPS.

Her shelter, known as the Villa Infantil Irapuato, has been taking in children since 1969 and has a capacity to house 40 orphans or children in an at-risk situation, between the ages of six and 20. Since 2003 it has applied its own care protocol.

The children are referred by the state office of the National System for Integral Development of the Family (DIF), and the shelter receives public and private financing.

Orphanages in Mexico operate in a vacuum of legislation, official records and supervision, with widespread problems of noncompliance and a lack of professionalism and funding – a situation that experts say is in violation of international treaties signed by Mexico.

In this country of 118 million people, with some 45 million children under the age of 18, there are around 700 public and private homes providing shelter to 30,000 children. But the Red Latinoamericana de Acogimiento Familiar (Latin American Foster Care Network) estimates that there are roughly 400,000 children in Mexico without parental care, including 100,000 who live on the streets.

The latest scandal over how these institutions are run broke out on Jul. 15, when the attorney general’s office announced that 596 people, including 458 children, were rescued from the “La Gran Familia” shelter in Zamora, a city in the western state of Michoacán. They were living in squalid conditions, in rooms infested with cockroaches and rats, according to the authorities.

Residents said they were raped, beaten, held against their will, and forced to beg. “We believe it is necessary to avoid institutionalisation and to have a general law on alternative care, and we urgently need clear, detailed information on children in institutions.” Martin Pérez

The home, which was founded in 1947, was run by Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, known as “Mamá Rosa”. She was deemed unfit to face prosecution because of her age and health problems, but six of her collaborators have been charged with kidnapping, child abuse and sexual abuse. The centre was shut down permanently on Jul. 30.

“The state is 30 years behind in terms of guaranteeing the rights of children in public policies,” said Martín Pérez, executive director of the Mexican Network for the Rights of Children. “The state has never supervised these establishments; every once in a while something comes to light and it remembers them and turns its attention to them.”

Since the state does not provide funds, it does not exercise oversight either. “And that leaves children in a vulnerable position. The shelters become a black hole; no one knows what educational method they’re using…what damage is caused,” Pérez told IPS.

Although the “Mamá Rosa” case was the highest profile scandal, whenever one of the orphanages or children’s homes makes it into the news, they all have one thing in common: irregularities in the way they are run.

On Jun. 17, the authorities rescued 33 children ages five to 17 and 10 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 from the Casa Hogar Domingo Savio in the central city of Puebla, in response to signs of abuse by the director of the home.

In 2011, 19 children were freed from the Instituto Casa Hogar Nuestro Señor de la Misericordia y Nuestra Señora de la Salette in Mexico City. The victims of abuse had received death threats to keep them from reporting the conditions they were held in.

Two years earlier, the authorities removed 126 mistreated youngsters from the “Casitas del Sur” shelters run by the non-governmental organisation Reintegración Social. They also found that 15 had gone missing, three of whom are still lost.

The Social Assistance Law requires the health ministry to monitor the homes for children. But the supervision is practically nonexistent.

International concern

For over a decade, Mexico has been in the sights of international bodies for these practices.

In its recommendations to the Mexican state in 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern over the large number of children placed in private institutions without any supervision, and suggested the creation of a directory and database of children in private homes.

“The Committee is concerned about lack of information (number, conditions of living, etc.) on children separated from their parents who are living in institutions. The Committee notes the large number of children in institutions managed by the private sector, and regrets the lack of information and oversight by the state on these institutions,” the document says.

The Committee, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, recommended that the state establish regulations based on children’s rights and introduce effective legislation, reinforcing existing structures such as the extended family, improving training of staff and allocating increased resources to the relevant bodies.

In the February 2014 report “The Right of Boys and Girls to a Family. Alternative Care. Ending Institutionalization in the Americas”, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged Organisation of American States (OAS) member countries to “properly regulate the operation of residential care facilities and carry out proper oversight, investigating them and, where appropriate, punishing any violations of children’s rights that take place in these facilities.”

“Institutionalising children continues to be a common response to these situations in the countries of the region, although evidence shows that the way many residential institutions currently operate does not guarantee that the rights of the children who are put in them are protected, and exposes them to situations of violence, abuse, and neglect,” the IACHR concluded.

Civil society groups in Mexico plan to launch an offensive to pressure the state to fulfill its obligations.

During the 69th session of the pre-sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to be held Sept. 22-26, a delegation of children, along with UNICEF – the U.N. chidren’s fund – and non-governmental organisations, will present a report in Geneva on the situation of children, including minors without parental care.

In May-June 2015, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, made up of 18 independent experts, will evaluate Mexico.

And the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Children, Rosa María Ortiz, will visit Mexico in October to draw up a report on the situation here.

“We believe it is necessary to avoid institutionalisaton and to have a general law on alternative care, and we urgently need clear, detailed information on children in institutions,” said Pérez of the Mexican Network for the Rights of Children.

Martínez, the head of the Patronato Pro Hogar del Niño de Irapuato children’s home, said it is important to take a close look at what kind of care each organisation provides. “The current model is too welfare-oriented. And who can guarantee monitoring of the cases? There is another approach that should be followed – working for a child’s development.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mexicos-orphanages-black-holes-for-children/feed/ 0
Island States to Rally Donors at Samoa Meethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/island-states-to-rally-donors-at-samoa-meet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=island-states-to-rally-donors-at-samoa-meet http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/island-states-to-rally-donors-at-samoa-meet/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:49:19 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136190 Flood damage in St. Vincent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Flood damage in St. Vincent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Aug 18 2014 (IPS)

Amid accelerating climate change and other challenges, a major international conference in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa next month represents a key chance for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean to turn the tide.

“This is an opportune moment where you will have all of the donor agencies and the funding partners so as civil society we have prepared a draft which looks at agriculture, health, youth, women and many other areas to present to the conference highlighting the needs in the SIDS,” Pamela Thomas, Caribbean civil society ambassador on agriculture for the United Nations, told IPS."We face particular vulnerabilities and our progress is impacted more than other developing countries by climate change and other natural phenomenon." -- Ruleta Camacho

“My primary area is agriculture and in agriculture we are targeting climate change because climate change is affecting our sector adversely,” she said.

“One of the projects we are putting forward to the SIDS conference is the development of climate smart farms throughout the SIDS. That is our major focus. The other area of focus has to do with food security, that is also a top priority for us as well but our major target at this conference is climate change,” added Thomas, who also heads the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN).

SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway, a 30-page document developed ahead of the conference, outlines the particular challenges that SIDS face.

These include addressing debt sustainability, sustainable tourism, climate change, biodiversity conservation and building resilience to natural systems, sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction, threats to fisheries, food security and nutrition, water and sanitation, to name a few.

Ruleta Camacho, project coordinator on sustainable island resource management mechanism within Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of the Environment, said the challenges faced by Caribbean SIDS are related to sustainable development issues.

She pointed out that there are still significant gaps with respect to sustainable development in SIDS and developing countries generally.

“With respect to SIDS we face particular vulnerabilities and our development progress is impacted more than other developing countries by climate change and other natural phenomenon,” she told IPS. “So because of our isolation and other physical impacts of these phenomenons we are sometimes held back.

“You take the case of Grenada where its GDP went to zero overnight because of a hurricane. So we have these sorts of factors that hinder us and so we are trying our best.”

Despite these circumstances, Camacho said Caribbean SIDS have done very well, but still require a lot of international assistance.

“The reason for these conferences, this being the third, is to highlight what our needs are, what our priorities are and set the stage for addressing these priorities in the next 10 years,” she explained.

In September 2004, Ivan, the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean region in a decade, laid waste to Grenada. The havoc created by the 125 mph winds cut communication lines and damaged or destroyed 90 percent of all buildings on the island.

Thomas’ group, CaFAN, represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Initiated by farmer organisations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods; and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.

Camacho said the Sep. 1-4 conference provides opportunities not only for farmers but the Caribbean as a whole.

“Because we are small we are a little bit more adaptable and we tend to be more resilient as a people and as a country,” she said. “So with respect to all our challenges what we need to do is to communicate to our funders that the one size fits all does not work for small island developing states.

“We have socio-cultural peculiarities that allow us to work a little differently and one of the major themes that we emphasise when we go to these conferences is that we don’t want to be painted with the broad brush as being Latin America and the Caribbean. We want our needs as small island Caribbean developing state and the particular opportunities and our positioning to be recognised,” Camacho said.

And she remains optimistic that the international funding agencies will respond in the affirmative in spite of a recurring theme in terms of the Caribbean requesting special consideration.

“Like any business model, you can’t just try one time. You try 10 times and if one is successful then it was worth it. Yes there have been disappointments where we have done this before, we have outlined priorities before,” she explained.

“To be quite frank, this document (S.A.M.O.A) seems very general when you compare it to the documents that were used in Mauritius or Barbados, however, we have found, I think Antigua and Barbuda has been recognised as one of the countries, certainly in the environmental management sector to be able to access funding.

“We have a higher draw down rate than any of the other OECS countries and that is because of our approach to donor agencies. We negotiate very hard, we don’t give up and we try to use adaptive management in terms of fitting our priorities to what is on offer,” Camacho added.

The overarching theme of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States is “The sustainable development of Small Island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships”.

The conference will include six multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, held in parallel with the plenary meetings.

It will seek to achieve the following objectives: assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation; seek a renewed political commitment by focusing on practical and pragmatic actions for further implementation; identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and means of addressing them; and identify priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 U.N. development agenda.

Editing by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at destinydlb@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/island-states-to-rally-donors-at-samoa-meet/feed/ 0
Socialists Could Turn to Environmentalist after Candidate’s Deathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/socialists-could-turn-to-enviromentalist-after-candidates-death/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=socialists-could-turn-to-enviromentalist-after-candidates-death http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/socialists-could-turn-to-enviromentalist-after-candidates-death/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 01:37:12 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136156 Eduardo Campos and Marina Silva, the Brazilian Socialist Party’s ticket for the October presidential elections, before Campos died in a plane crash. Credit: Agência Brasil/EBC

Eduardo Campos and Marina Silva, the Brazilian Socialist Party’s ticket for the October presidential elections, before Campos died in a plane crash. Credit: Agência Brasil/EBC

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 16 2014 (IPS)

The death of socialist presidential candidate Eduardo Campos opens up an unexpected opportunity for environmental leader Marina Silva to return with renewed strength to the struggle to govern Brazil, offering a “third way” in a highly polarised campaign.

Silva, who was environment minister from 2003 to 2008, won 19.6 million votes in the 2010 presidential elections – 19.3 percent of the total – and is seen by many as someone who can breathe new life into the Brazilian political scene.

The winding road, littered with tragedy, that led to her nomination as vice presidential candidate on Campos’ ticket could thrust her back to the forefront, with a stronger chance of winning.

She has preserved a large part of the popular support she gained in 2010. In addition, opinion polls show that she was the political leader who benefited the most from the mass protests that shook Brazil’s big cities in June and July 2013, which rejected the political class as a whole.

The national commotion caused by the death of Campos in a plane crash on Aug. 13 could also give a fresh impulse to a candidacy aimed at breaking with the two-party system.

The frontrunners in the polls for the Oct. 5 elections are President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) and Aecio Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB). The PT has governed Brazil since 2003, and the PSDB did so from 1995 to 2002.

Marina Silva’s political career began in the small northwestern Amazon jungle state of Acre, where she was born in 1958. She didn’t learn to read and write until the age of 16, after she left the rainforest to seek healthcare, as she was suffering from hepatitis, malaria and leishmaniosis.

Her close work with rubber-tapper and activist Chico Mendes, who organised his fellow workers in Acre to fight for their rights and became a martyr for the Amazon when he was killed in 1988, was the driver of her first electoral triumphs.

A senator since 1994, Silva was one of the main leaders of the PT, which first came to power with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2011).

She was environment minister until she resigned in 2008 over policy disagreements with Lula, who she criticised for pursuing “material growth at any cost,” at the expense of the poor and the environment.

A year later she left the PT and joined the small Green Party (PV) to run in the 2010 presidential elections, which were won by Rousseff, Lula’s former energy minister and chief of staff. Silva came in third, but with an unexpectedly strong showing.

She then left the PV as well, over disagreements with its reform proposals, and tried to create a new political grouping, the Sustainability Network. But the electoral court ruled that it had insufficient signatures to qualify.

To avoid being left out of the race, Silva joined the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), led by Campos, and became his vice-presidential running-mate.

After Campos’ death, she would seem to be his natural replacement. The PSB has until Aug. 23 to name its new candidate.

If the PSB does not choose Silva, it would be contributing to the two-party system that has reigned for 20 years, and would lose standing in the other levels of power, such as state legislatures and governments. A socialist legislator acknowledged that Campos is “irreplaceable.”

The dilemma for the PSB is that accepting Silva as its candidate would be another kind of suicide, because of the loss of identity it would entail for the party. The environmentalist has numerous discrepancies with the party’s policies.

The PSB, which named the ministers of science and technology during Lula’s two terms, is in favour of nuclear energy and transgenic crops, which are rejected by Silva and other environmentalists.

Campos was one of those ministers in 2004-2005, and his popularity grew when he served as governor of the state of Pernambuco from 2006 to early 2014, thanks to the swift economic growth and industrial development he led in his state, which is in the Northeast, Brazil’s poorest region.

Megaprojects like the Suape Port industrial complex, the diversion of the São Francisco River to bring water to the semiarid Northeast, and the Transnordestina railway were decisive for Pernambuco to have the highest economic growth of any Brazilian state in the last few years.

But environmentalists are opposed to many aspects of these megaprojects, which form part of a development-oriented policy focus that runs counter in many ways to the sustainability touted by Silva’s Network.

The projects were launched or given a new impulse in the last decade by Lula, for whom Campos was an important and loyal ally. His PSB only broke with Rousseff’s PT government last year.

Campos, with popularity ratings of more than 70 percent in Pernambuco, presented himself as an alternative to the PSDB social democrats and the PT labourists. But his criticism was not aimed at the Lula administration; it was strictly reserved for the government of Rousseff.

That distinction could have been based on electoral calculations, because Lula remains extremely popular. But it could have also been due to affinity with the former president. Campos was the political heir to Miguel Arraes, his grandfather, a legendary leader of the Brazilian left who governed Pernambuco for three terms. But he was also a disciple of Lula.

Like Lula, he was a master of dialogue, of building alliances even among disparate groups, forging relations with both business leaders and poor communities, and responding to the forces of the market while introducing strong social policies.

Rousseff, on the other hand, lost support among the business community due to her economic policies.

Campos had to redouble his efforts to win over landowners and ranchers, because of the rejection by those sectors of his running-mate, whose environmentalism is seen as an obstacle to the expansion of agribusiness.

Despite their contradictions, the union of Campos and Silva strengthened the so-called “third way” in Brazil’s elections.

Campos’ death could actually give Silva a boost in the elections, since she is already starting out with a broader electoral base, and will benefit from the fact that many Brazilians are fed up with the way politics is done in this country.

In July, according to the latest poll by the Data Folha Institute, 36 percent of respondents said they would vote for Rousseff, 20 percent for the PSDB’s Neves, and eight percent for Campos.

But analysts are now pointing to two weak points for Silva. One is that she alienates productive sectors with her ecological discourse, and as a consequence loses campaign donations. Another is her membership of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, which draws her support from the growing evangelical flock but distances the Catholic majority.

In any case, analysts don’t rule out the possibility of a second round between two women who were both former ministers of Lula. But the question is to what extent the PSB’s leaders are prepared to renounce their ideals.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/socialists-could-turn-to-enviromentalist-after-candidates-death/feed/ 1
U.S. Urged to Put Development Aid over Border Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-urged-to-put-development-aid-over-border-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-urged-to-put-development-aid-over-border-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-urged-to-put-development-aid-over-border-security/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:24:28 +0000 Julia Hotz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136144 By Julia Hotz
WASHINGTON, Aug 15 2014 (IPS)

When U.S lawmakers departed Washington for a month-long recess, they left behind a simmering debate over what to do about the tens of thousands of Central American children and adults that continue to cross the U.S. southern border.

Many potential solutions have been tabled as to how the federal government should handle the unprecedented influx. Yet these strategies, which include two proposals pending in Congress, are built on starkly differing views over why these migrants are leaving their homes in the first place.

“The question is simple,” Manuel Orozco, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank here, told IPS. “Are people migrating because of security and opportunity, or are people migrating from danger and violence?”

Many in the Latino community are disappointed by U.S. President Barack Obama's failure to push through comprehensive immigration reform. Credit: Valeria Fernandez/IPS

Many in the Latino community are disappointed by U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to push through comprehensive immigration reform. Credit: Valeria Fernandez/IPS

Orzoco’s field research, released this week, seems to point to the latter.

“[I]ntentional homicides emerge as a more powerful driver of international migration than human development,” his report notes, cautioning that “migrants are primarily coming from some of the most populous violent municipalities in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.”

“They’re actually, for the most part, escaping for fear for their life,” he says, clarifying that these threats apply to both minors and adults in Central America.

Yet despite the fact that Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – collectively known as the Northern Triangle – produce higher homicide rates than war zones such as Afghanistan or Iraq, some U.S. lawmakers doubt that this phenomenon is responsible for recent months’ mass Central American migration.

Instead, sceptics attribute the inflow of tens of thousands of migrants to President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.

For these lawmakers, then, the answer is more security at the southern border.

Indeed, this is precisely what the Republican-led House of Representatives has prioritised in its current bill worth some 700 million dollars, more than half of which would be allocated to tighten security along the southern U.S. border. The remainder would be used to accelerate deportations.

President Obama has said he would veto the bill, calling it “extreme” and “unworkable”.

Orzoco, too, considers the security-focused approach to be “myopic”. Instead, he and others say that lawmakers must focus on increasing assistance to Central America – dealing directly with the poverty and violence that appear to be spurring much of the recent influx.

“It’s good not to look just under security lines, and that we invest in real economic development while also addressing the security situation,” Adriana Beltran, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a watchdog group here, told IPS.

1.3 percent

U.S. aid to Central America has historically been weak. In 2013, the region received just 1.3 percent of U.S. foreign assistance, according to a new fact sheet from the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a Washington-based network of businesses and NGOs.

But the White House has put forward a proposal that would bolster Central American assistance by some 300 million dollars. Larry Knowles, a consultant with the USGLC, informed IPS of the bill’s relative breakdown.

While one third of this aid would go towards improving governance standards, including fiscal and judicial reform, another third would go towards economic development, and the remainder would be earmarked for crime-prevention efforts, youth-at-risk programmes and reintegration initiatives.

The fate of that bill remains unclear, however, as it is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives. Unlike the Senate, the House has not declared Central America’s internal strife worthy of “emergency aid appropriations”.

Still, the general thrust has received significant applause in certain quarters. The Inter-American Dialogue’s Orzoco is enthusiastic, suggesting the assistance could be used to improve Central America’s education, strengthen its labour force’s skills, and aid small businesses.

“There needs to be a much more inclusive strategy to address all of these problems,” Orzoco said.

Such analysis is also supported by Oscar Calvo-Gonzalez, chief economist for Central America at the World Bank, though he cautions that violence is “one of the many causes that drive people to move.”

Calvo-Gonzalez says that municipal-level programmes that can help the situation.

“Crime is a highly localised phenomenon, so you want to have highly localised intervention,” Calvo-Gonzales told IPS.

Economic growth in Central America must be shared, Calvo-Gonzalez emphasises, citing high inequality and “limited opportunities for advancement” as his primary concerns.

“Central America stands out as poverty has not declined consistently,” he says, “though [poverty in] the rest of Latin America has declined, Central America’s poverty is stagnant.”

He says the World Bank has been working in Central America to mobilise additional tax revenues and build the capacity of domestic governments in the region.

WOLA’s Beltran echoed the effectiveness of such a localised approach, calling in particular for greater investment in violence prevention.

“There is evidence of programmes working at the community level to address youth violence and security,” she says, citing a 40 percent  reduction in Honduras’ Santa Tecla as one such example. “Social services, the police, the church and other local bodies can come together to find a solution.”

Shared responsibility

For the Inter-American Dialogue’s Orzoco, fixing such problems is beyond the domain of the Northern Triangle and its governments. “These issues require responsibility of both Central American governments and the United States’ government,” he says.

Orzoco justifies strengthened U.S. development assistance for the region by first pointing to the shortcomings of Central American efforts, listing an ongoing lack of legislation and inadequate initiatives to “prevent the continuing outflow of kids” as examples.

“Central American governments, so far, have not been very accountable,” he says.

Orzoco also says the U.S. government has generally refused to share responsibility for Central America’s problems, despite Washington’s history of economic and political hegemony and interventions in the region. He points, for instance, to a “complete neglect” of organised crime.

“What organised crime has done is create an ecosystem of irregular economic activity that presents itself as a profitable one, given the context of property,” Orzoco says.

Other analysts have gone further, suggesting that the United States has contributed to the region’s growth in organised crime through its “war on drugs” and fostering of influential gangs in U.S. prisons.

But Orzoco cautions that despite the United States’ qualified intention to assist Central America, some lawmakers may be doing so for political purposes – a factor that will only continuing to strengthen as the November elections here draw closer.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at hotzj@union.edu

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/u-s-urged-to-put-development-aid-over-border-security/feed/ 0
Brazil’s “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” Faces Death Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/brazils-dalai-lama-of-the-rainforest-faces-death-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazils-dalai-lama-of-the-rainforest-faces-death-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/brazils-dalai-lama-of-the-rainforest-faces-death-threats/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 22:45:14 +0000 Fabiola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136140 Davi Kopenawa at an assembly of the the Hutukara Associação Yanomami . Credit: Courtesy Luciano Padrã/Cafod

Davi Kopenawa at an assembly of the the Hutukara Associação Yanomami . Credit: Courtesy Luciano Padrã/Cafod

By Fabiola Ortiz
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 14 2014 (IPS)

Davi Kopenawa, the leader of the Yanomami people in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, who is internationally renowned for his struggle against encroachment on indigenous land by landowners and illegal miners, is now fighting a new battle – this time against death threats received by him and his family.

“In May, they [miners] told me that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the year alive,” Armindo Góes, 39, one of Kopenawa’s fellow indigenous activists in the fight for the rights of the Yanomami people, told IPS.

Kopenawa, 60, is Brazil’s most highly respected indigenous leader. The Yanomami shaman and spokesman is known around the world as the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” and has frequently participated in United Nations meetings and other international events.“The landowners and the garimpeiros have plenty of money to kill an Indian. The Amazon jungle belongs to us. She protects us from the heat; the rainforest is essential to all of us and for our children to live in peace.” -- Davi Kopenawa

He has won awards like the Global 500 Prize from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). His voice has drawn global figures like King Harald of Norway – who visited him in 2013 – or former British footballer David Beckham – who did so in March – to the 96,000-sq-km territory which is home to some 20,000 Yanomami.

Kopenawa is president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), which he founded in 2004 in Boa Vista, the capital of the northern state of Roraima. Before that he fought for the creation of the Yanomami Indigenous Territory (TI), which is larger than Portugal, in the states of Amazonas and Roraima, on the border with Venezuela.

On Jul. 28, HAY issued a statement reporting that its leader had received death threats in June, when Góes, one of the organisation’s directors, was accosted on a street in the Amazonas town of São Gabriel da Cachoeira by “garimpeiros” or illegal gold miners, who gave him a clear death message for Kopenawa.

Since then “the climate of insecurity has dominated everything,” Góes told IPS.

Garimpeiros are penetrating deeper and deeper into Yanomami territory in their search for gold, in Brazil as well as Venezuela, encroaching on one of the world’s oldest surviving cultures.

Illegal gold miners damage the territory and attack the families of the Yanomami. Credit: Courtesy Colin Jones/Survival International

Illegal gold miners damage the territory and attack the families of the Yanomami. Credit: Courtesy Colin Jones/Survival International

The Yanomami TI was demarcated just before the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro. And it was the Rio+20 Summit, held in this city in 2012, that made Kopenawa more prominent at home, where he was less well-known than abroad.

“Davi is someone very precious to Brazil, but some people see him as an enemy. He is a thinker and a warrior who forms part of Brazil’s identity and has fought for the rights of the Yanomami and other indigenous people for over 40 years,” activist Marcos Wesley, assistant coordinator of the Rio Negro sustainable development programme of the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA), told IPS.

The Rio Negro, the biggest tributary of the Amazon River, runs across Yanomami territory.

In the 1990s, Kopenawa managed to get 45,000 garimpeiros evicted from the Yanomami TI, Wesley noted. “He and Hutukara are the spokespersons for the Yanomami, for their demands. I can imagine there are people who have suffered economic losses and are upset over the advances made by the Yanomami,” he added.

“There are threatening signs that put us on the alert,” Góes said. “We are working behind locked doors. Two armed men were already searching for Davi in Boa Vista. They even offered money if someone would identify him. We are getting more and more concerned.”

The director of HAY explained that “our lives are at risk, and our elders advised Davi to take shelter in his community.”

Shaman Davi Kopenawa with former British football star David Beckham, who visited Yanomami territory in March. Credit: Courtesy Nenzinho Soares/Survival International

Shaman Davi Kopenawa with former British football star David Beckham, who visited Yanomami territory in March. Credit: Courtesy Nenzinho Soares/Survival International

Although the Yanomami TI was fully demarcated, illegal activities have not ceased there.

“There are many people invading indigenous land for mining,” Góes said.

Kopenawa comes from the remote community of Demini, one of the 240 villages in the Yanomami TI. The only way to reach the village is by small plane or a 10-day boat ride upriver.

On Aug. 8, IPS managed to contact the Yanomami leader, just a few minutes before he set out for his community. But he preferred not to provide details about his situation, because of the threats.

“At this moment I prefer not to say anything more. I can only say that I am very worried, together with my Yanomami people; the rest I have already said,” he commented.

Five days earlier, Kopenawa had been one of the guests of honour at the 12th International Literature Festival in Paraty in the southern state of Rio de Janeiro. He talked about the violence facing his people, when he presented his book “The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman”.

Violence against environmentalists and indigenous activists

The organisation Global Witness reported that nearly half of the murders of environmentalists committed in the world in the last few years were in Brazil. In the 2012-2013 period the total was 908 murders, 443 of which happened in this country.

The 2013 report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) on violence against indigenous people in Brazil documented 53 victims of murder, 29 attempted murders, and 10 cases of death threats.

The executive secretary of CIMI, Cleber Buzatto, told IPS that threats against indigenous leaders had increased in the last year.

“Economic interests act together and mount violent attacks on the rights of indigenous people, especially in terms of their rights to their territory,” he added. “It’s a very touchy situation. The threats continue to occur because of the existing impunity and because the authorities have not taken effective action.”

“The landowners and garimpeiros have plenty of money to kill an Indian. The Amazon jungle belongs to us. She protects us from the heat; the rainforest is essential to all of us and for our children to live in peace,” he said.

He had previously denounced that “They want to kill me. I don’t do what white people do – track someone down to kill him. I don’t interfere with their work. But they are interfering in our work and in our struggle. I will continue fighting and working for my people. Because defending the Yanomami people and their land is my work.”

In its communiqué, HAY demanded that the police investigate the threats and provide Kopenawa with official protection.

“The suspicion is that the threats are in reprisal for the work carried out by the Yanomami, together with government agencies, to investigate and break up the networks of miners in the Yanomami TI in the last few years,” HAY stated.

Kopenawa and HAY provide the federal police with maps of mining sites, geographic locations, and information on planes and people circulating in the Yanomami TI. Their reports have made it possible to carry out operations against garimpeiros and encroaching landowners; the last large-scale one was conducted in February.

According to the federal police, in Roraima alone, illegal mining generates profits of 13 million dollars a month, and many of the earnings come from Yanomami territory.

Góes stressed to IPS that mining has more than just an economic impact on indigenous people.

“It causes an imbalance in the culture and lives of the Yanomami, and generates dependence on manufactured, artificial objects and food. It changes the entire Yanomami world vision. Mining also generates a lot of pollution in the rivers,” he complained.

“We know that in Brazil we unfortunately have a high rate of violence against indigenous leaders and social movements,” Wesley said. “Impunity reigns. Davi is a fighter, and will surely not be intimidated by these threats. He believes in his struggle, in the defence of his people and of the planet.”

In Brazil there is no specific programme to protect indigenous people facing threats.

Representatives of Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, told IPS that a request from protection was received from Kopanawa and other HAY leaders, and that it was referred to the programme of human rights defenders in the Brazilian presidency’s special secretariat on human rights.

But they said that in order to receive protection, the Yanomami leader had to confirm that he wanted it, and the government is waiting for his response to that end.

In this country of 200 million people, indigenous people number 896,917, according to the 2010 census.

 

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/brazils-dalai-lama-of-the-rainforest-faces-death-threats/feed/ 0
Cry for Argentina: Fiscal Mismanagement, Odious Debt or Pillage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cry-for-argentina-fiscal-mismanagement-odious-debt-or-pillage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cry-for-argentina-fiscal-mismanagement-odious-debt-or-pillage http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cry-for-argentina-fiscal-mismanagement-odious-debt-or-pillage/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 20:01:34 +0000 Ellen Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136137 By Ellen Brown
SONOMA, California, Aug 14 2014 (IPS)

Argentina has now taken the U.S. to The Hague for blocking the country’s 2005 settlement with the bulk of its creditors. The issue underscores the need for an international mechanism for nations to go bankrupt.

Better yet would be a sustainable global monetary scheme that avoids the need for sovereign bankruptcy.Better than redesigning the sovereign bankruptcy mechanism might be to redesign the global monetary scheme in a way that avoids the continual need for a bankruptcy mechanism.

Argentina was the richest country in Latin America before decades of neoliberal and IMF-imposed economic policies drowned it in debt. A severe crisis in 2001 plunged it into the largest sovereign debt default in history.

In 2005, it renegotiated its debt with most of its creditors at a 70 percent “haircut.” But the opportunist “vulture funds,” which had bought Argentine debt at distressed prices, held out for 100 cents on the dollar.

Paul Singer’s Elliott Management has spent over a decade aggressively trying to force Argentina to pay down nearly 1.3 billion dollars in sovereign debt. Elliott would get about 300 million dollars for bonds that Argentina claims it picked up for 48 million. Where most creditors have accepted payment at a 70 percent loss, Elliott Management would thus get a 600 percent return.

In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a New York court’s order blocking payment to the other creditors until the vulture funds had been paid. That action propelled Argentina into default for the second time in this century – and the eighth time since 1827.

On Aug. 7, Argentina asked the International Court of Justice in the Hague to take action against the United States over the dispute.

Who is at fault? The global financial press blames Argentina’s own fiscal mismanagement, but Argentina maintains that it is willing and able to pay its other creditors. The fault lies rather with the vulture funds and the U.S. court system, which insist on an extortionate payout even if it means jeopardising the international resolution mechanism for insolvent countries.

If creditors know that a few holdout vultures can trigger a default, they are unlikely to settle with other insolvent nations in the future.

Blame has also been laid at the feet of the IMF and the international banking system for failing to come up with a fair resolution mechanism for countries that go bankrupt. And at a more fundamental level, blame lies with a global debt-based monetary scheme that forces bankruptcy on some nations as a mathematical necessity. As in a game of musical chairs, some players must default.

Most money today comes into circulation in the form of bank credit or debt. Debt at interest always grows faster than the money supply, since more is always owed back than was created in the original loan. There is never enough money to go around without adding to the debt burden.

As economist Michael Hudson points out, the debt overhang grows exponentially until it becomes impossible to repay. The country is then forced to default.

Fiscal mismanagement or odious debt?

Besides impossibility of performance, there is another defense Argentina could raise in international court – that of “odious debt.” Also known as illegitimate debt, this legal theory holds that national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation should not be enforceable.

The defence has been used successfully by a number of countries, including Ecuador in December 2008, when President Rafael Correa declared that its debt had been contracted by corrupt and despotic prior regimes. The odious-debt defence allowed Ecuador to reduce the sum owed by 70 percent.

In a compelling article in Global Research in November 2006, Adrian Salbuchi made a similar case for Argentina. He traced the country’s problems back to 1976, when its foreign debt was just under six billion dollars and represented only a small portion of the country’s GDP. In that year:

An illegal and de facto military-civilian regime ousted the constitutionally elected government of president María Isabel Martínez de Perón [and] named as economy minister, José Martinez de Hoz, who had close ties with, and the respect of, powerful international private banking interests.

With the Junta’s full backing, he systematically implemented a series of highly destructive, speculative, illegitimate – even illegal – economic and financial policies and legislation, which increased Public Debt almost eightfold to 46 billion dollars in a few short years.

This intimately tied-in to the interests of major international banking and oil circles which, at that time, needed to urgently re-cycle huge volumes of “Petrodollars” generated by the 1973 and 1979 Oil Crises.

Those capital in-flows were not invested in industrial production or infrastructure, but rather were used to fuel speculation in local financial markets by local and international banks and traders who were able to take advantage of very high local interest rates in Argentine Pesos tied to stable and unrealistic medium-term U.S. dollar exchange rates.

Salbuchi detailed Argentina’s fall from there into what became a 200 billion dollars debt trap. Large tranches of this debt, he maintained, were “odious debt” and should not have to be paid:

“Making the Argentine State – i.e., the people of Argentina – weather the full brunt of this storm is tantamount to financial genocide and terrorism. . . . The people of Argentina are presently undergoing severe hardship with over 50% of the population submerged in poverty . . . . Basic universal law gives the Argentine people the right to legitimately defend their interests against the various multinational and supranational players which, abusing the huge power that they wield, directly and/or indirectly imposed complex actions and strategies leading to the Public Debt problem.”

Of President Nestor Kirchner’s surprise 2006 payment of the full 10 billion dollars owed to the IMF, Salbuchi wrote cynically:

“This key institution was instrumental in promoting and auditing the macroeconomic policies of the Argentine Government for decades. . . . Many analysts consider that . . . the IMF was to Argentina what Arthur Andersen was to Enron, the difference being that Andersen was dissolved and closed down, whilst the IMF continues preaching its misconceived doctrines and exerts leverage. . . . [T]he IMF’s primary purpose is to exert political pressure on indebted governments, acting as a veritable coercing agency on behalf of major international banks.”

Sovereign bankruptcy and the “Global Economic Reset”

Needless to say, the IMF was not closed down. Rather, it has gone on to become the international regulator of sovereign debt, which has reached crisis levels globally. Total debt, public and private, has grown by over 40 percent since 2007, to 100 trillion dollars. The U.S. national debt alone has grown from 10 trillion dollars in 2008 to over 17.6 trillion today.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2014, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde spoke of the need for a global economic “reset.”

National debts have to be “reset” or “readjusted” periodically so that creditors can keep collecting on their exponentially growing interest claims, in a global financial scheme based on credit created privately by banks and lent at interest. More interest-bearing debt must continually be incurred, until debt overwhelms the system and it again needs to be reset to keep the usury game going.

Sovereign debt (or national) in particular needs periodic “resets,” because unlike for individuals and corporations, there is no legal mechanism for countries to go bankrupt. Individuals and corporations have assets that can be liquidated by a bankruptcy court and distributed equitably to creditors.

But countries cannot be liquidated and sold off – except by IMF-style “structural readjustment,” which can force the sale of national assets at fire sale prices.

A Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism ( SDRM) was proposed by the IMF in the early 2000s, but it was quickly killed by Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury. The IMF is working on a new version of the SDRM, but critics say it could be more destabilising than the earlier version.

Meanwhile, the IMF has backed collective action clauses (CACs) designed to allow a country to negotiate with most of its creditors in a way that generally brings all of them into the net. But CACs can be challenged, and that is what happened in the case of the latest Argentine bankruptcy. According to Harvard Professor Jeffrey Frankel:

“[T]he U.S. court rulings’ indulgence of a parochial instinct to enforce written contracts will undermine the possibility of negotiated restructuring in future debt crises.”

We are back, he says, to square one.

Better than redesigning the sovereign bankruptcy mechanism might be to redesign the global monetary scheme in a way that avoids the continual need for a bankruptcy mechanism. A government does not need to borrow its money supply from private banks that create it as credit on their books.

A sovereign government can issue its own currency, debt-free. But that interesting topic must wait for a follow-up article. Stay tuned.

Ellen Brown can be found on her Web of Debt Blog.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/cry-for-argentina-fiscal-mismanagement-odious-debt-or-pillage/feed/ 0
Mining Firms in Peru Mount Legal Offensive Against Inspection Taxhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mining-firms-in-peru-mount-legal-offensive-against-inspection-tax/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mining-firms-in-peru-mount-legal-offensive-against-inspection-tax http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mining-firms-in-peru-mount-legal-offensive-against-inspection-tax/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 01:10:35 +0000 Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136119 Children playing next to mine tailings in Morococha, a mining town in the central Peruvian department or region of Junín. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Children playing next to mine tailings in Morococha, a mining town in the central Peruvian department or region of Junín. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Milagros Salazar
LIMA, Aug 14 2014 (IPS)

The leading mining companies in Peru have brought a rash of lawsuits to fight an increase in the tax they pay to cover the costs of inspections and oversight of their potentially environmentally damaging activities.

The lawsuits have come one after another. As of Aug. 7, 14 mining companies had filed legal injunctions in different courts to fight the “Aporte por Regulación” (APR – Regulation Contribution) that they are charged, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told IPS.

The legal action targets different institutions in the executive branch, including the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and OEFA, Peru’s environmental oversight agency, which collects the APR.

Javier Velarde, the general manager of the Yanacocha mining company, told IPS that a total of 26 mining corporations, including his firm – the largest gold producer in Latin America – have brought legal action against the APR.

Yanacocha is a joint venture owned by the U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation and the Peruvian company Buenaventura.

The National Society of Mining, Oil and Energy, which represents the leading companies in the industry, also brought action against the APR, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

At the same time, four companies opened administrative proceedings with the Commission for the Elimination of Bureaucratic Barriers of the National Institute for Defence of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI).

The companies argue that the APR amounts to a “confiscation”.

One of the companies that turned to INDECOPI is the Peruvian firm Caudalosa, which in 2010 caused a major spill of toxic waste from a tailings dam, poisoning the rivers that provide water to the people of Huancavelica in central Peru, one of the poorest departments (regions) in the country.

The corporations that have brought court action include foreign firms like Cerro Verde, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, and two subsidiaries of the Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore Xstrata.

The Peruvian companies include Casapalca, which is facing several lawsuits for environmental, labour and safety violations, and Volcan, which has been fined on a number of occasions for causing environmental damage.

“Companies are getting bolder and bolder,” in a political context where efforts are being made to reduce “bureaucratic hurdles” to investment, Deputy Minister of Environmental Management José de Echave told IPS.

Delia Morales, left, and Sandra Rossi, officials at OEFA, Peru's environmental oversight agency, reviewing the legal injunctions presented by mining companies. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Delia Morales, left, and Sandra Rossi, officials at OEFA, Peru’s environmental oversight agency, reviewing the legal injunctions presented by mining companies. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

In July, Congress approved a package of measures introduced by the government of President Ollanta Humala to boost private sector investment by simplifying environmental requirements and streamlining bureaucratic procedures, due to the slowdown in the economy triggered by declining demand for raw materials.

Peru is the world’s fifth-largest producer of gold, second of silver, third of copper, zinc and tin, and fourth of lead. Mining accounts for nine percent of the country’s GDP, 60 percent of exports, 21 percent of private investment and 30 percent of income tax. It also provides mining companies with billions of dollars in profits.

“We are defending ourselves and we are sure that we will demonstrate that the measure has sound legal standing,” Minister Pulgar-Vidal told IPS, after confirming that the judiciary had already thrown out one of the lawsuits, filed by Antapaccay, a subsidiary of Glencore Xstrata.

The inspection tax was originally created in 2000 to finance the regulatory agencies. It was established at the time that the contribution would not exceed one percent of a company’s annual earnings after taxes, OEFA officials explained.

But in December, the government decreed that the contribution would be reduced to 0.15 percent of annual sales in 2014 and 2015, and to 0.13 percent in 2016.

The president of the OEFA board of directors, Hugo Gómez, said that if one percent was not a “confiscation” then a smaller contribution was even less so.

But Yanacocha’s Velarde argued that the decree that set the amount of the contribution was tacked onto the original law, which it distorted, because the amount “far exceeds the cost of activities of monitoring and oversight.”

At stake in this legal battle is not only money but also the Independence of environmental oversight activities.

Before OEFA took over the environmental monitoring of the mining industry in 2010, the task was in the hands of the Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining, which charged a “mining tariff”.

The tariff was calculated according to what the Supervisory Body specifically spent for each company inspected: days of work for the inspector, costs of lab testing of samples, and other expenses for services. The companies were billed directly for the cost of the inspections, OEFA director of supervision, Delia Morales, told IPS.

The tariff system was inherited by OEFA, but in December 2013, a percentage for the APR was set, which brought in more money.

From nearly 400,000 dollars, which the regulatory body took in with the mining tariff in 2013, the total went up to nine million dollars under the APR in the first half of this year alone.
OEFA estimates that it will bring in some 15 million dollars this year for oversight of the mining industry alone. Up to mid-2013, it had collected 17 million dollars for monitoring and inspection of three sectors: fossil fuels, mining and electricity.

IPS learned that in its court injunction against the APR, Xstrata Las Bambas, which also belongs to Glencore Xstrata, argued that with the new APR it ended up paying 36 times more than what it paid with the mining tariff.

OEFA official Sandra Rossi told IPS that technical calculations were made to set the amount of the APR because the way the mining tariff was determined “limited oversight.”

“It was an outdated system” that did not make it possible to carry out technical work and prevention efforts to inform communities of what impacts the extractive industry activities could have, Morales said.

The manager of Yanacocha said he did agree that mining companies should finance oversight activities. But he argued that they should be charged in relation to “the real costs” and should not have to finance other activities that are not directly related to monitoring and inspection.

But Iván Lanegra, a specialist in environmental policy questions and a former deputy minister of intercultural issues, told IPS that “environmental oversight is not limited to specific monitoring of a given company. It is broader than that. What was created was not an OEFA for each company, but an overall oversight and inspection structure.”

In his view, “It’s fair for the companies that receive significant benefits” to pay for the oversight, because they carry out activities that pose serious environmental risks. Lanegra said it would not be right for the expense to be financed with the taxes paid by all Peruvians.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/mining-firms-in-peru-mount-legal-offensive-against-inspection-tax/feed/ 0
It Takes More than Two to Tango – or to Clean up Argentina’s Riachuelo Riverhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/it-takes-more-than-two-to-tango-or-to-clean-up-argentinas-riachuelo-river/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=it-takes-more-than-two-to-tango-or-to-clean-up-argentinas-riachuelo-river http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/it-takes-more-than-two-to-tango-or-to-clean-up-argentinas-riachuelo-river/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 14:55:58 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136106 A young man looks out at the La Boca transporter bridge, built in 1914, which stopped operating in 1960. This emblem of the Riachuelo river in Buenos Aires is being rebuilt as part of the clean-up of the river basin and is scheduled to begin working again in 2015. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A young man looks out at the La Boca transporter bridge, built in 1914, which stopped operating in 1960. This emblem of the Riachuelo river in Buenos Aires is being rebuilt as part of the clean-up of the river basin and is scheduled to begin working again in 2015. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 13 2014 (IPS)

Immortalised by a famous tango, the “Niebla del riachuelo” (Mist over the Riachuelo river) has begun to dissipate over Argentina’s most polluted river, much of which is lined by factories and slums. But two centuries of neglect and a complex web of political and economic interests are hindering a clean-up plan that requires a broad, concerted effort.

The 64-km Matanzas-Riachuelo river cuts across 14 Buenos Aires municipalities as it runs from the western Buenos Aires working-class suburb of La Matanza to the picturesque, lively neighbourhood of La Boca, where it flows into the Río de la Plata or River Plate.

In the 1937 tango by Enrique Cadícamo and Juan Carlos Cobián the river is described as “a murky anchorage where boats end up moored at the pier, destined to stay there forever”. But far removed from the poetic license of a tango, for two centuries the riachuelo was actually a foul-smelling dump for untreated sewage and industrial waste.

Now, thanks to the Integral Environmental Clean-up Plan approved in 2011, the situation has changed in the river known as Matanza at its source and Riachuelo where it runs into the Rio de la Plata.

“The mist is gone….because it had to do with the water pollution…so poor Cadícamo wouldn’t be able to write Mist over the Riachuelo river today,” Antolín Magallanes, executive vice president of the Matanza Riachuelo River Basin Authority (ACUMAR), told Tierramérica.

ACUMAR, made up of representatives of the national, provincial and Buenos Aires city governments and of the 14 municipalities crossed by the river, was ordered by the Supreme Court to clean up the river in 2006.

“In 30 years of democracy, the creation of ACUMAR [in 2006] was an enormous and historic stride forward, because it made it possible for the first time for three jurisdictions, including governments of different political stripes, to coordinate the management [of the river] and for civil society to oversee it,” Magallanes said.

“That is part of the clean-up. It’s not just the garbage that’s in the river, which reflects the failure of the different parts to join forces in the past,” he added.

An industrial area along the Riachuelo, with the port in the background, in Buenos Aires. Since the first factories were built along the banks in 1801, industrial waste has been dumped into the river. There are now 15,000 factories, of which 459 were reconverted to prevent them from polluting, while another 1,300 are in the process of doing the same. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

An industrial area along the Riachuelo, with the port in the background, in Buenos Aires. Since the first factories were built along the banks in 1801, industrial waste has been dumped into the river. There are now 15,000 factories, of which 459 were reconverted to prevent them from polluting, while another 1,300 are in the process of doing the same. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

More than five million people – of the 15.5 million inhabitants of Greater Buenos Aires – live in the basin, 10 percent of them in shantytowns. Of that proportion, 35 percent have no running water and 55 percent have no sewer services.

As part of the clean-up plan, some 60 sunken ships were removed from the river, which the tango describes as a “grim cemetery of boats which, when they die, dream nevertheless that to the sea they are bound to go.”

Around 1,500 tons of solid waste was also removed from the river and its banks, and the wide towpaths along the river were reopened and paved to provide access to and control over the river.

In addition, 1.5 million people were incorporated in the water supply network, health assessments are currently being carried out in high-risk areas, and 14 health centres are under construction.

“We are doing something that didn’t exist before: an environmental health diagnosis specific to the Matanza-Riachuelo basin, which will offer new results,” Magallanes said.

But the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) said that “although what has been done was necessary, it falls far short in relation to the pending tasks.”

“Structurally very little was done,” the president of the independent Metropolitan Foundation, Pedro Del Piero, told Tierramérica. “Sanitation works have begun, with delays, to keep the Riachuelo from being an open-air sewer.”

The project has begun to go beyond the planning stage, thanks to 840 million dollars in financing from the World Bank.

A large waste water pipe will be built on the left bank of the Riachuelo to move the sewage to different treatment plants, to keep it from being dumped directly into the river. And a huge 11.5-km underground pipe will be installed to carry treated wastewater to the Rio de la Plata.

“That will make possible uses that have up to now been inconceivable, such as boat rides on the river and other recreational activities,” said World Bank official Daniel Mira-Salama.

Andrés Nápoli, director of FARN, is also calling for stricter controls of industrial pollution, along with a change in the current “extremely lax” legislation.

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace reported in June that there had been no improvement in the quality of the water, which still had only 0.5 mg of oxygen per litre, when the bare minimum to make aquatic life possible is 5.0 mg.

A 2008 study published in the Latin American Journal of Sedimentology and Basin Analysis found that soil on the banks of the river contained high levels of zinc, lead, copper, nickel and total chromium. But Magallanes wrote off the report as being based on “old” statistics.

Of a total of 15,000 factories officially registered in the river basin, 459 have been reconverted to stop polluting and another 1,300 – including the biggest polluters – are in the process of doing so.

“There is a high level of tension,” Magallanes admitted, adding that the basin “is kind of a metaphor for Argentina.”

The Riachuelo was at the centre of “the conquest, development and industrial revolution” in this country, and of the 2002-2003 economic crisis, which forced a number of factories to close down, driving up unemployment, he pointed out.

“That means there are many deeply rooted ways of doing things that must be changed, and awareness has to be raised among the companies,” he said.

Nápoli blamed the slow pace of change on “the huge web of political and economic interests in Buenos Aires,” aggravated by “political bickering” between the government of President Cristina Fernández and the opposition, which governs the capital.

ACUMAR “is constantly at the mercy of the political vicissitudes of the federal officials of the day,” Del Piero concurred.

But Magallanes said these were difficulties that were normal in democracy.

“In the past every jurisdiction did its cleaning up, had its little environmental manual, or didn’t do anything,” he argued.

ACUMAR relocated 122 families from high-risk zones, and is building over 1,900 housing units. It has also made headway with another 1,600 projects.

But Nápoli said it is not enough. “There are vulnerable people living along the banks of streams, or next to polluting industries. Six years after the Supreme Court ruling we still don’t know exactly who are at risk.”

He also called for the urgent removal or closure of open air dumps of varying sizes. Of the 186 dumps shut down in the basin, 70 percent are being used again, said Nápoli, who believes the origin of the problem dates back to a decision to put garbage disposal in the hands of municipal governments.

To solve the problem, ACUMAR is building municipal urban solid waste treatment plants.

“By clearing the mist off the river once and for all, we’re moving down a very positive path. From tension to transformation,” Magallanes said.

“Obviously there is still a great deal to be done,” he added. “But now we’re all finally talking about the river. That’s a good thing. It’s part of the recovery.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/it-takes-more-than-two-to-tango-or-to-clean-up-argentinas-riachuelo-river/feed/ 0
IFC Warned of Systemic Safeguards Failures in Hondurashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/ifc-warned-of-systemic-safeguards-failures-in-honduras/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifc-warned-of-systemic-safeguards-failures-in-honduras http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/ifc-warned-of-systemic-safeguards-failures-in-honduras/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 00:34:01 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136085 By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Aug 13 2014 (IPS)

For the second time this year, an internal auditor has criticised the World Bank’s private sector investment agency over dealings in Honduras, and is warning that similar problems are likely being experienced elsewhere.

The investigation found that the bank’s private sector investment agency, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), took on a significant stake in a Honduran bank but undertook “insufficient measures” to assess that institution’s own investments. These included at least one company involved in a deadly land dispute.“The philosophy of the World Bank is to ‘end poverty’, but what has happened in this process has been the opposite.” -- La Plataforma Agraria de Honduras

The auditor, known as the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO), also levels a broader critique of the IFC’s investments in third-party groups such as the Honduran bank. When dealing with these “financial intermediaries”, the CAO warns, financial considerations appear to be receiving far more attention from officials than the environmental and social policies meant to safeguard local communities.

“IFC acquired an equity stake in a commercial bank with significant exposure to high risk sectors and clients, but which lacked capacity to implement IFC’s environmental and social requirements,” the CAO states in a report released Monday.

“The absence of an environmental and social review process that was commensurate to risk meant that key decision makers … were not presented with an adequate assessment of the risks that were attached to this investment.”

The report focuses on a 2011 IFC investment, worth 70 million dollars, in Banco Ficohsa, Honduras’s third-largest bank. CAO found that important information was withheld between IFC offices over the extent of business between Banco Ficohsa and Corporacion Dinant, an agribusiness company that for years has been accused of waging a violent campaign to expand its palm oil plantations in the country’s Aguan Valley.

In January, CAO issued critical findings on a separate IFC investment in Dinant, from 2009, worth 30 million dollars. Dinant is owned by Miguel Facusse Barjum, one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country and reportedly a backer of the 2009 military coup that ousted a pro-reform president.

Over the past half-decade, more than 100 people have reportedly been killed in the Aguan Valley in clashes between Dinant security personnel and local cooperatives.

IFC has put on hold the Dinant deal and enacted a plan aimed at ameliorating the situation. The new report does not find evidence that the Banco Ficohsa deal was aimed at funnelling additional funds to Dinant, but CAO researchers suggest that the effect was the same.

“[W]aiving a key financial covenant and then taking an equity position in Ficohsa … facilitated a significant ongoing flow of capital to Dinant, outside the framework of its environmental and social standards,” the report states.

Local civil society groups say the effect has been devastating.

“The philosophy of the World Bank is to ‘end poverty’, but what has happened in this process has been the opposite,” La Plataforma Agraria de Honduras, a Honduran network, told IPS in Spanish.

“Instead, we’ve seen greater wealth for corporations and transnational landowners and greater poverty for the poor, who have been driven from their lands. And although the previous CAO report was very critical, the World Bank has continued to finance Dinant through Ficohsa.”

Beneath the intermediaries

In a formal response also released Monday, the IFC does not dispute the CAO findings. But it does suggest that they are no longer relevant, following changes put in place in part in response to the January CAO report on Dinant.

New procedures, for instance, will now allow for additional oversight visits to “medium risk clients”. Multiple new processes will also aim to close information gaps of the type that led to the Ficohsa revelations, including the creation of a new vice-president-level position to focus on “risk and sustainability”.

“Under this new structure, [environmental and social] risk will receive the same weight and attention as financial and reputation risk,” two IFC vice-presidents wrote in a letter to CAO.

Yet the remarkably critical CAO report has already added momentum to an ongoing campaign to convince the World Bank Group to reform the IFC’s dealings with financial intermediaries such as Banco Ficohsa. Such deals have become increasingly important to the IFC’s portfolio over the past decade, but they have traditionally offered far less oversight for the agency.

In such projects, the IFC requires the intermediary to set up a system aimed at ensuring that stringent environmental and social safeguards are met. But analysis of the effects of this system on the ground is left to the intermediary.

“This issue has been questioned in many cases – where a financial intermediary is the one doing the disbursements and the IFC is completely separate and doesn’t know what’s going on,” Carla Garcia Zendejas, a programme director at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington-based watchdog group, told IPS.

“That’s the case here. Even if you have a system in place to assess these risks, if you’re not doing that properly the whole system is worthless.”

Systemic reassessment

The CAO has repeatedly questioned the IFC’s policies on investments in financial intermediaries (a broad investigation can be found here). This time, the investigators are clear that the Honduras situation is likely not an isolated incident.

“[T]he shortcomings identified in this investigation … are indicative of a system of support to [financial intermediaries] which does not support IFC’s higher level environmental and social commitments,” CAO states.

“CAO’s findings raise concerns that IFC has, through its banking investments, an unanalyzed and unquantified exposure to projects with potential significant adverse environmental and social impacts.”

The auditor warns that, under current disclosure mechanisms, “this exposure is also effectively secret”, and calls for a “reassessment” of the agency’s management of social and environmental risk in its dealings with financial institutions.

Rights advocates note that similar concerns are cropping up in IFC investments in financial intermediaries elsewhere.

“One of this report’s main findings is that there is a breakdown in the IFC’s systems approach to [financial intermediaries], especially in risk categorization,” Jelson Garcia, of the Bank Information Center (BIC), a watchdog group here, told IPS in an e-mailed statement. “This … links to recent cases in Myanmar and India as yet another example of the IFC needing to take stringent and urgent reforms of its financial markets lending approach.”

Advocacy groups say a primary concern is the IFC’s institutional culture, which they say prioritises the volume of loans disbursed over their quality. BIC, CIEL and others are now calling on World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to order the preparation of a reform plan in time for the next big World Bank Group meetings, in October.

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/ifc-warned-of-systemic-safeguards-failures-in-honduras/feed/ 0
Putting the Littlest Disaster Victims on the Caribbean’s Climate Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/putting-the-littlest-disaster-victims-on-the-caribbeans-climate-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-the-littlest-disaster-victims-on-the-caribbeans-climate-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/putting-the-littlest-disaster-victims-on-the-caribbeans-climate-agenda/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:04:41 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136077 Students of Buccament Government Primary School in St. Vincent receive gifts from sixth graders at the Green Bay Primary School in Antigua following the terrible flooding that occurred in Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Christmas Eve 2013. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Students of Buccament Government Primary School in St. Vincent receive gifts from sixth graders at the Green Bay Primary School in Antigua following the terrible flooding that occurred in Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Christmas Eve 2013. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 12 2014 (IPS)

Children are often the forgotten ones when policy-makers map out strategies to deal with climate change, even as they are least capable of fending for themselves in times of trouble.

According to David Popo, head of the Social Policy Unit at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). “Very often when we speak about poverty reduction we are not seeing children, children are invisible in terms of development.“If we fail to build resilience to adapt to those potential impacts now, we will risk consigning our future generations of Anguillians, and the entire OECS region, to an irreversible disaster." -- Anguilla’s Environment Minister Jerome Roberts

“And it’s not just St. Lucia but especially throughout the wider Caribbean,” Popo told IPS.

He cited the findings of a recent UNICEF-facilitated workshop that showed climate change has a litany of negative consequences for children, in areas such as education, poverty reduction and other forms of social development.

The OECS Rallying the Region to Action on Climate Change (OECS-RRACC project) is supporting St. Lucia through the establishment of a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform that will enable the mapping of water infrastructure for improved management and delivery services to consumers.

Popo said such a platform must make provision for the impact of the findings on children, who often appear to be overlooked when disaster mitigation plans are being considered.

“This instrument, this GIS platform has to be able, in addition to mapping the infrastructural facilities throughout the island, I think it’s very important as well to have some very strong correlations with respect to what happens to people and especially our children,” he said.

“We can very well imagine the impact in terms of schooling, education, health and the other related impacts within the unit of the household especially in areas which are impoverished and impoverished households…If there is no water in the house, the parent cannot send the child to school.”

The RRACC Project is a joint effort by the OECS Secretariat and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to assist Eastern Caribbean States in various ways relating to climate change.

The UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in an analysis titled “Children and Climate Change in the Small Islands Development States (SIDS) of the Eastern Caribbean” said trends in the Caribbean during the last 30 years are already showing significant changes to the environment due to climate change.

It said the results of climate change are all expected to negatively impact children and families due to lost/reduced earnings for families from loss in the agricultural, fishing and tourism sectors; threatened environmental displacement – 50 percent of the population live within 1.5 kilometres from the coastlines – increased vector- and water-borne diseases; and family separation due to migration because of challenges in some countries.

David Popo, head of the Social Policy Unit at the OECS. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

David Popo, head of the Social Policy Unit at the OECS. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The analysis also cited the loss of classroom time for children due to emergencies during the storm season; that fact that the rights of children were not addressed within most emergency plans/policies; the psychological toll of constant fear of natural disasters; and further family separation and migration.

UNICEF said children, as an especially vulnerable group, will bear a disproportionately large share of the burden.

Anguilla’s Environment Minister Jerome Roberts told IPS the region’s response to the climate change challenge must involve children, adding it will be judged by history.

“If we fail to build resilience to adapt to those potential impacts now, we will risk consigning our future generations of Anguillians, and the entire OECS region, to an irreversible disaster,” he said.

“As minister with responsibility for education and the environment, it will be remiss of me not to emphasise the need to ensure that Anguilla provides quality climate change education.

“Our approach must encourage innovative teaching methods that will integrate climate change education in schools. Furthermore, we have to ensure that we enhance our non-formal education programme through the media, networking and partnerships to build public knowledge on climate change,” he added.

Roberts noted that as a small island, Anguilla is very susceptible to the potential impacts of climate change, droughts, flooding and the inundation of the land by sea level rise.

“We are aware that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing,” he said, commending those educational institutions that have already established school gardens for themselves and their communities and encouraging those in the process of doing the same.

“I am aware that some students have learnt about the fragility of their environment by participating in such initiatives. In fact, conservation projects allow children to acquire first-hand knowledge on the delicate nature of their environment,” Roberts said.

“I therefore applaud and encourage other schools to be creative and to develop similar or even more innovative schemes related to climate change and environmental management in their schools.”

Popo stressed that climate change is not going away and the impacts are predicted to be worse going forward.

“All of us are aware of the occurrences of recent climatic events: the drought in 2009, Hurricane Tomas in 2010 and, of course, the more recent Christmas Eve storm in 2013, which apart from bringing to the front a number of our development issues, signaled the need as well for capacity building and planning for the accompanying negative impacts on our islands’ resources,” he said.

A two-year-old child was among more than a dozen people killed when a freak storm ripped through the Eastern Caribbean, destroying crops, houses and livelihoods in its wake in three of the world’s smallest countries – St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica —on Dec 24, 2013. A 12-year-old child was also washed away in the flooding and remains missing.

The storm dumped more than 12 inches of rain on St. Vincent over a five-hour period — more than the island’s average rainfall in a month. This triggered massive landslides and the cresting of more than 30 rivers and streams.

Hundreds of houses were destroyed. In addition, 14 bridges were washed away, and the pediatric ward of the country’s main hospital was left waist-high in water.

Sonia Johnny, St. Lucia’s ambassador to the United States, said her island was battered by torrential rains for 24 hours, interspersed with thunder and lightning.

“As one little boy said, we thought it was the end of the world. Nobody in St. Lucia had ever experienced such heavy rains before,” Johnny said.

Editing by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at destinydlb@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/putting-the-littlest-disaster-victims-on-the-caribbeans-climate-agenda/feed/ 0
Chile’s Patagonia Seeks Small-Scale Energy Autonomyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/chiles-patagonia-seeks-small-scale-energy-autonomy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chiles-patagonia-seeks-small-scale-energy-autonomy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/chiles-patagonia-seeks-small-scale-energy-autonomy/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 00:53:13 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136066 The beauty of the snowy streets of Coyhaique, the capital of the Patagonia region of Aysén, hide the fact that it is Chile’s most polluted city, mainly due to the use of wet firewood to heat homes, in an area where temperatures are below zero for much of the year. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The beauty of the snowy streets of Coyhaique, the capital of the Patagonia region of Aysén, hide the fact that it is Chile’s most polluted city, mainly due to the use of wet firewood to heat homes, in an area where temperatures are below zero for much of the year. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
COYHAIQUE, Chile , Aug 12 2014 (IPS)

The southern region of Aysén in Chile’s Patagonian wilderness has the highest energy costs in the entire country. And the regional capital, Coyhaique, is the most polluted city in the nation, even though it has huge potential for hydroelectricity and wind power.

Most of the population opposed the construction of the HidroAysén hydropower dams, and the public pressure helped bring about the Jun. 10 cancellation of the project by the administration of socialist President Michelle Bachelet.

Now that the battle has been won, the region is looking for a way to reach energy autonomy.

“Aysén is Chile’s hydropower mecca. Nevertheless there is a monopoly over electricity here that continues to use diesel for 28 percent of power generation,” activist Peter Hartmann, a member of the Patagonia Defence Council and creator of the concept Aysén Reserve of Life, told IPS.

And fuel, Hartmann said, costs twice as much in Aysén as in the centre of Chile, which means the price of electricity is nearly double what it costs in Santiago.

The region of Aysén, whose capital is 1,629 km south of Santiago, is the heart of Chile’s Patagonia wilderness region. It consists of 108,494 sq km of glaciers, evergreen forests, fjords, islands, canals, lakes and swift-running rivers.

“Above and beyond structural questions that have to be worked out, this region only has good things to offer,” social activist Miriam Chible told IPS.

Mega does not mean good

The now-defunct HidroAysén project aimed to build five mega hydropower dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers, which would have generated 2,750 MW of electricity, with an annual capacity of 18,430 gigawatt-hours.

Environmentalists led the fight against the construction of the dams because of the impact they could have had on Chile’s Patagonia region, which has been proposed for humanity’s heritage status with UNESCO (the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) due to its vast biodiversity and enormous reserves of freshwater, among the planet’s largest.

But the Cuervo River project, which the Patagonia Defence Council sees as having a lesser impact, continues moving forward. The government has not yet taken a stance on it.

“Aysén has natural resources and enterprising people,” she said. “It has clearly marked seasons, which although it is a challenge makes it possible for us to plan. Besides, it’s next to Argentina, which gives it tremendous potential because it makes us part of a binational Patagonian area.”

Coyhaique, the region’s administrative and economic capital, is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. But paradoxically this is also Chile’s most polluted city.

The reason is that its 56,000 inhabitants mainly use firewood – much of which is green, wet or covered with moss – to heat their homes and cook in this extreme southern region, where temperatures are below zero for much of the year.

“In Aysén everyone heats and cooks with firewood, which causes Coyhaique’s high levels of pollution,” Hartmann said.

He added, however, that “If it occurred to you to put a small electric heater in your house in the wintertime, they would fine you for overconsumption. These are the things that no one understands.”

To this is added the poor insulation of homes in this region, where 9.9 percent of the population is poor – below the national average of 11.7 percent – but 4.2 percent is extremely poor – higher than the Chilean average of 3.7 percent.

Hartmann explained that half of the houses in this city have no insulation. He was referring to homes subsidised by the state, which he described as “anti-social” housing.

But firewood is part of the culture of Patagonians, who pay up to 7,000 dollars a year to heat their homes with green, wet or mossy wood, which costs 32 dollars per cubic metre, compared to 56 dollars per cubic metre for dry wood.

Social activist Miriam Chible has installed solar panels in her family restaurant in Coyhaique, in Chile’s Patagonia region, to achieve energy autonomy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Social activist Miriam Chible has installed solar panels in her family restaurant in Coyhaique, in Chile’s Patagonia region, to achieve energy autonomy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

This Southern Cone country of 17.6 million people has 18,278 MW of gross installed capacity. It imports 97 percent of the fossil fuels it needs, and hydropower makes up 40 percent of the energy mix, which is dependent on highly polluting fossil fuels that drive thermal power stations, for the rest.

This country’s shortage of energy sources has made the cost of electricity per megawatt/hour (MWh) in Chile one of the highest in Latin America: over 160 dollars, compared to 55 dollars in Peru, 40 in Colombia and 10 in Argentina.

And in Aysén the cost per MWh is double the national average.

Currently, Edelaysen, a subsidiary of the private company Saesa, controls the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power in the region.

In Aysén, 54.2 percent of electricity comes from thermal power, 41.7 percent from hydroelectricity, and 4.1 percent from wind power.

Those who fought the HidroAysén project are now pressing for an even more ambitious goal: regional energy sovereignty.

One of the leaders of this struggle is Miriam Chible.

This widow and mother of four who was born and raised in Coyhaique forms part of the Presidential Advisory Commission for Regional Development and Decentralisation, established in April to work towards energy sovereignty by focusing on unconventional renewable sources. Another goal of the commission is autonomy in the area of food supplies.

“We are trying to design a different model of economic development for Aysén,” Chible said.

The idea, she added, “is for Aysén to come up with its own energy project, in order to later push for its own kind of development.”

The activist said the environmental movement believes Aysén’s hydropower potential could be harnessed by means of mini-dams, which have a smaller impact, while developing wind, solar and geothermal energy as well.

Some progress in that direction has been made. Six months ago, 120 people created a Solar Cooperative, which on Aug. 2 held its first seminar on local experiences in unconventional renewable energy sources.

Chible has 24 solar panels on her restaurant Histórico Ricer, which has been serving meals in the centre of Coyhaique for 33 years. Like her, there are dozens of families making an effort to diversify their energy sources.

The next step will be the purchase of LED light bulbs in bulk, for each member of the cooperative to install in their homes. “We also have metres that show how much energy we consume every day, and we hold energy ecoliteracy workshops,” she said.

The Aysén regional secretary of energy, Juan Antonio Bijit, explained to IPS that the region has the capacity to generate a significant amount of energy, with hydropower and wind potential. We even, he said, “have incorporated photovoltaic solutions with very good results.”

He said the Energy Agenda launched by President Bachelet on Jun. 15 is looking at boosting the electricity supply in the region in order to bring down rates “and improve people’s standard of living.”

Bijit said that for now there are no plans to subsidise the cost of energy in Aysén. But he added that community input will be included in all future decisions.

“We cannot do things between four walls; it’s important to talk to the people before decisions are reached,” he said.

“The idea is for people to be participants in what needs to be done in the area of energy, and in Aysén the population has a high level of awareness about this issue,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/chiles-patagonia-seeks-small-scale-energy-autonomy/feed/ 1
Swamped by Rising Seas, Small Islands Seek a Lifelinehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/swamped-by-rising-seas-small-islands-seek-a-lifeline/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=swamped-by-rising-seas-small-islands-seek-a-lifeline http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/swamped-by-rising-seas-small-islands-seek-a-lifeline/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 18:16:06 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136060 Raolo Island in the Solomon Islands is one of the many places threatened by sea level rise. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Raolo Island in the Solomon Islands is one of the many places threatened by sea level rise. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 11 2014 (IPS)

The world’s 52 small island developing states (SIDS), some in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth because of sea-level rise triggered by climate change, will be the focus of an international conference in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa next month.

Scheduled to take place Sep. 1-2, the conference will provide world leaders with “a first-hand opportunity to experience climate change and poverty challenges of small islands.”For low-lying atoll nations particularly, the high ratio of coastal area to land mass will make adaptation to climate change a significant challenge.

According to the United Nations, the political leaders are expected to announce “over 200 concrete partnerships” to lift small islanders out of poverty – all of whom are facing rising sea levels, overfishing, and destructive natural events like typhoons and tsunamis.

“We are working with our partners – bilaterally and multilaterally – to help resolve our problems,” said Ambassador Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia, permanent representative of Samoa to the United Nations.

“You don’t have to bring the cheque book to the [negotiating] table,” he added. “It’s partnerships that matter.”

The issues on the conference agenda include sustainable economic development, oceans, food security and waste management, sustainable tourism, disaster risk reduction, health and non-communicable diseases, youth and women.

The list of 52 SIDS covers a wide geographical area and includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Nauru, Palau, Maldives, Cuba, Marshall Islands, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The conference is expected to adopt a plan of action, also called an outcome document, ensuring some of the priorities for SIDS. A preparatory committee, co-chaired by New Zealand and Singapore, has finalised the outcome document which will go before the conference for approval.

Responding to a series of questions, Ambassador Karen Tan, permanent representative of Singapore to the United Nations, and Phillip Taula, deputy permanent representative of New Zealand, told IPS SIDS have “specific vulnerabilities, and the difficulties they face are severe and complex. The small size of SIDS creates disadvantages.”

These can include limited resources and high population density, which can contribute to overuse and depletion of resources; high dependence on international trade; threatened supply of fresh water; costly public administration and infrastructure; limited institutional capacities; and limited export volumes, which are too small to achieve economies of scale.

They noted that geographic dispersion and isolation from markets can also lead to high freight costs and reduced competitiveness. SIDS have limited land areas and populations concentrated in coastal zones. Climate change and sea-level rise present significant risks.

The long-term effects of climate change may threaten the very existence and viability of some SIDS, Tan and Taula said in the joint interview. “SIDS are located among the most vulnerable regions in the world in terms of the intensity and frequency of natural and environmental disasters and their increasing impact. And they face disproportionately high economic, social and environmental consequences when disasters occur.”

These vulnerabilities accentuate other issues facing developing countries in general, such as challenges around trade liberalisation and globalisation, food security, energy dependence and access; freshwater resources; land degradation, waste management, and biodiversity.

Asked how many SIDS have been identified by the U.N. as in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth, they said no such assessment has yet been undertaken.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its fifth assessment report (AR5), and its Working Group II has recently issued its contribution to that, on ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability’.

The report warned that small islands in general are at risk of loss of livelihoods, coastal settlements, infrastructure, ecosystem services, and economic stability.

For low-lying atoll nations particularly, the high ratio of coastal area to land mass will make adaptation to climate change a significant challenge.

Some small island states are expected to face severe impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion, the report added. These could have damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP).

The report notes the risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones in small islands.

However, the WGII report also notes that significant potential exists for adaptation in islands, but additional external resources and technologies will enhance response.

Asked if there will be a plan of action adopted in Samoa, they said the outcome document will highlight the challenges that SIDS face and actions that SIDS and their partners will take to address these challenges.

“The theme of the conference, sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships, recognises that international cooperation and a wide range of partnerships involving all stakeholders are critical for the sustainable development of SIDS.”

As host, Samoa has made it clear that “no partnership is too small to count but what is essential is that they have clear targets, outputs, planned outcomes and timelines.”

Meanwhile, Afu Billy, capacity building volunteer at Development Services Exchange in Solomon Islands, told IPS the experiences that would be shared during the conference will be invaluable for small island states as they learn from each other how they are dealing with these issues and also learn from the international community on how they too are addressing these priorities of SIDS.

The fact that the conference will be bringing together governments and non-government stakeholders, including the private sector, provides a learning opportunity and one that will pose collaborative efforts on how everyone can work together in partnership to assist SIDS.

The conference will also create a space for civil society organisations (CSOs) to have an independent voice and also for governments to hear their views, she noted.

This may create further collaborative initiatives between governments and CSOs for sustainable developments in the SIDS.

Asked whether she expects any concrete outcome, Billy said the idea to form partnerships among all stakeholders including the governments to assist SIDS to do things for themselves “is one outcome that we anticipate the conference delivering.”

Any plan of action that the conference adopts should be inclusive of all stakeholders, she added.

“There should be emphasis on SIDS doing things for themselves to ensure sustainable development and that stakeholders and partners are seen as ‘friends’ who come to their rescue when they get bogged in a ‘rut’ but then let’s them carry on with what they are doing after being ‘rescued’”.

This is to alleviate or minimise donor dependency but also promote sustainable development.

“We expect better and stronger official development assistance (ODA) to be directed on development effectiveness rather than on a dominant aid effectiveness approach,” she said.

“Finally, we expect that the issue of reducing corruption and increase transparency at all levels will be an overarching subject at the Conference and sound recommendations to alleviate corruption will be adopted and incorporated into the Plan of Action,.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/swamped-by-rising-seas-small-islands-seek-a-lifeline/feed/ 0
Gabriel García Márquez – the Last Visithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-last-visit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-last-visit http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-last-visit/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 16:19:33 +0000 Ignacio Ramonet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136058

In this column, Ignacio Ramonet, director of the Spanish language edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, writes about the last time he saw Colombian Nobel Literature laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who passed away on Apr. 17.

By Ignacio Ramonet
VALENCIA, Spain, Aug 11 2014 (Columnist Service)

I had been told he was in Havana but that, because he was sick, he didn’t want to see anyone. I knew where he usually stayed: in a magnificent country house far from the city centre. I called on the phone and Mercedes, his wife, eased my doubts. She said, warmly: “Not at all, that’s to keep the pests away. Come over, ‘Gabo’ will be happy to see you.”

The next morning, in the humid heat, I climbed a palm tree-lined drive and knocked on the door of the tropical villa.

I knew he was suffering from lymphatic cancer and that he was undergoing exhausting chemotherapy. They said his health was delicate, and there was even talk of a heart-wrenching “farewell letter” to his friends and to life…I was afraid I would encounter a dying man.

Mercedes came to open the door, and to my surprise she said with a smile: “Come in. Gabo’s coming…He’s just finishing his tennis match.”

A little while later, sitting on a white sofa in the dim living room, I watched him come in, certainly looking fit, with his curly hair still wet from the shower, and his thick moustache. He was wearing a yellow guayabera shirt, wide white pants and canvas shoes. A character right out of a Visconti film.

Drinking a glass of ice coffee, he said he felt “like a wild bird that has escaped from its cage. In any case, much younger than I look.” And he added that “with age, I find that the body isn’t made to last as long as we would like to live.”

He then suggested that we “do like the English, who never talk about health problems. It’s impolite.”

A stiff breeze lifted the curtains on the huge windows up high and the living room started to feel like a flying ship. I told him how much I liked the first volume of his autobiography, ’Living to Tell the Tale’. “It’s your best novel,” I said.

García Márquez in 1984. Credit: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar C BY-SA 3.

García Márquez in 1984. Credit: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar C BY-SA 3.

He smiled and adjusted his thick-framed glasses. “Without a little imagination it’s impossible to reconstruct my parents’ incredible love story. Or my memories as a baby…Don’t forget that only the imagination is clairvoyant. Sometimes it is truer than the truth. Just think of Kafka or Faulkner, or simply Cervantes.”

In the background the notes of Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony flooded the room, creating an atmosphere at once joyous and dramatic.

I had met Gabriel García Márquez some 40 years earlier, in 1979, in Paris, with my friend Ramón Chao. Gabo, as he was affectionately known, had been invited by UNESCO, and along with Hubert Beuve-Méry, the founder of Le Monde Diplomatique, formed part of a panel chaired by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Sean MacBride, which was charged with producing a report on the north-south imbalance in the global media.

Back then, he had stopped writing novels, as part of a self-imposed ban that was supposed to last as long as General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) was in power in Chile. He had not yet received the Nobel Literature Prize, but he was already immensely famous. The success of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) had made him the most widely read Spanish-language author since Cervantes.

I remember being surprised at his short stature and struck by his gravity and his serious demeanor. He lived like a recluse, only leaving his room, which had become a kind of cell where he did his work, only to go to UNESCO.

With respect to journalism, his other great passion, he had just published an account of the seizure by a Sandinista commando of the National Palace in Managua, Nicaragua, which had triggered the downfall of dictator Anastasio Somoza. He furnished a wealth of details that gave the impression that he himself took part in the event. I wanted to know how he had managed to do that.

He told me: “I was in Bogotá at the time of the assault. I called General Omar Torrijos, the president of Panama. The commando had just been given refuge in his country and still hadn’t talked to the media. I asked him to tell the guys to be wary of the press, because their words could be distorted. He responded: ‘Come. They’ll only talk to you.” I went and the leaders of the commando – Edén Pastora, Dora María and Hugo Torres – and I shut ourselves in a room in an army garrison.

“We reconstructed the event minute by minute, from the planning stage to the final outcome. We spent the night there. Exhausted, Pastora and Torres fell asleep. Dora María and I continued till dawn. I returned to the hotel to write up the report. Later, I went back to read it to them. They corrected a few technical terms, the names of weapons, the structure of the groups, etc. The report was published less than a week after the assault. It drew the world’s attention to the Sandinista cause.”

I saw Gabo many times after that – in Paris, Havana, Mexico. We had an ongoing disagreement over Hugo Chávez. He didn’t believe in Venezuela’s comandante. I, on the other hand, thought he was the man who was going to usher Latin America into a new historical period. Apart from that, our conversations were always very (too?) serious: the future of the world, the future of Latin America, Cuba…

However, I remember that once I laughed till I cried. I was coming back from Cartagena de Indias, a sumptuous colonial city in Colombia; I had glimpsed his house behind its high walls, and I mentioned it to him. He asked me: “You know how I got that house?” No idea. “Since I was very young, I wanted to live in Cartagena,” he said. “And when I had money, I started looking for a house there. But it was always too expensive. A lawyer friend explained to me: ‘They think you’re a millionaire and they jack up the price. Let me look for one for you.’ A few months later, he finds this house, which at the time was an old print shop, nearly in ruins. He talks to the owner, who was blind, and they agree on a price.

“But the old man sets a condition: he wants to meet the buyer. My friend comes and tells me: ‘We have to go see him, but you mustn’t talk. Otherwise, as soon as he recognises your voice, he’ll triple the price…He’s blind, you’ll be mute.’ The day of the meeting arrives. The blind guy starts asking me questions. I answer in indecipherable grunts….But at one point, I make the mistake of saying ‘yes’ loud and clear. ‘Ah!’ says the old man, ‘I know that voice! You’re Gabriel García Márquez!’ He had figured out who I was.

“He immediately adds ‘We’re going to have to reconsider the price. Everything’s different now.’ My friend tries to negotiate. But the blind guy says again ‘No. It can’t be the same price. No way.’ ‘Ok, how much then?’ we ask him, resigned. The old man thinks for a minute and says ‘Half.’ We didn’t understand a thing…So he explains: ‘You know I have a print shop. What do you think I made a living from up to now? Printing pirate editions of García Márquez’s novels!’”

That fit of laughter still resonated in my memory when, in the house in Havana, I continued my conversation with a Gabo who was much older, although intellectually as quick as ever. I talked about my book of interviews with Fidel Castro. ‘I’m really jealous,’ he said, laughing, ‘you had the luck of spending over 100 hours with him.’

“‘I’m the one who is impatient to read the second part of your memoir,’ I responded. ‘At last you’re going to talk about your meetings with Fidel, who you’ve known much longer. You and he are like two giants in the Hispanic world. If you compare it to France, it would be like Victor Hugo meeting Napoleon…’ He roared with laughter, while smoothing back his bushy eyebrows. ‘You have too much imagination…But I’m going to disappoint you: there will be no second part…I know that many people, friends and adversaries are waiting for ‘my historic verdict’ on Fidel. It’s absurd. I’ve already written what I had to write about him. Fidel is my friend and he always will be. To the grave.”

The sky had gone dark, and the living room, even though it was the middle of the day, was very dim. The conversation was slowing down, and had become less lively. Gabo was gazing out into space, and I wondered: “Could it be possible that he won’t leave any written testimony of so many confidential things shared in friendly complicity with Fidel? Will he have left it for a posthumous publication, when neither of them are in this world anymore?”

Outside, torrential rain was pouring down from the sky with the force of a tropical storm. The music had gone silent. A heavy fragrance of orchids invaded the room. I glanced over at Gabo. He had the tired look of an old Colombian leopard. He was sitting there, silent and meditative, staring at the endless rain, the constant companion through all his solitudes. I slipped out quietly. Without knowing I was seeing him for the last time.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-last-visit/feed/ 0
Guido, the Grandson in the DNA of All Argentinianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/guido-the-grandson-in-the-dna-of-all-argentinians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guido-the-grandson-in-the-dna-of-all-argentinians http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/guido-the-grandson-in-the-dna-of-all-argentinians/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:22:13 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136016 “Thanks, thank you so much.” These were the words tweeted by Guido Montoya Carlotto on Friday Aug. 8 when he first met with his grandmother Estela de Carlotto. Credit: Twitter account @IgnacioHurban

“Thanks, thank you so much.” These were the words tweeted by Guido Montoya Carlotto on Friday Aug. 8 when he first met with his grandmother Estela de Carlotto. Credit: Twitter account @IgnacioHurban

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 2014 (IPS)

The recovery of “grandchild number 114” – one of the sons and daughters of those who were “disappeared” during the Argentine dictatorship – caused a commotion that many compared to the excitement of making it to the final match of the World Cup a month ago.

A degree of compensation for the wound that has remained open during 30 years of democracy but has finally begun to heal.

“Speechless”, “excited”, “ecstatic” were some of the terms repeated over and over on the social networks which reached a record number of retweets and shares on Aug. 5, when the discovery of the grandson of the president and founder of the Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo organisation, Estela de Carlotto, was announced.

A sensation of “speechlessness” felt by most – although not all – people in Argentina and reflected across the media, regardless of ideological slant.

“The tireless struggle to search for their blood relatives could never be called into question, it is something so natural, so logical, so right, that no one can remain indifferent towards it,” lawyer Marta Eugenia Fernández of the University of Buenos Aires told IPS.

Since 1977 the Abuelas have been looking for the children born into captivity or kidnapped along with their parents during the 1976-1983 dictatorship, which left 30,000 people dead or disappeared, according to human rights groups. The children were raised by military and police couples as well as by families unaware of their origins, who adopted them in good faith.

The search for her grandson took 36 years, the age today of “Guido”, as his mother wanted him to be called, or Ignacio Hurban, as he was named by the parents who raised him in Olavarría, a town 350 km from the city of Buenos Aires, apparently unaware of where he had come from.

Guido, a pianist, songwriter and arranger, decided to have a DNA test taken to get the sample compared to a national database because of doubts about his own identity.

The test showed, with a compatibility match of 99.9 percent, that he is the son of Laura Carlotto, a university student and member of the defunct guerrilla group Montoneros who gave birth in captivity in the Military Hospital on Jun. 26, 1978. She was killed two months later, another victim of one of the cruelest dictatorships in Latin America, a region plagued by de facto military regimes in the 20th century.

Guido’s father was Oscar Walmir Montoya, a musician like his son, and a Montoneros militant who was killed shortly after he and Laura were seized in November 1977.

“Laura Carlotto and Oscar Montoya will not come back to life,” journalist Luis Bruschtein wrote in the Buenos Aires newspaper Página12. “The damage is infinite and irreversible. The recovery of their son is an immense reparation for that infinite damage.”

Fernández wrote: “The news of the reunion of the grandson with one of the grandmothers in the vanguard of the struggle is as cinematographic as seeing [Argentine football star] Lionel Messi make a goal in the 98th minute.”

Nearly a month after the end of the FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil, where Argentina lost the final match to Germany on Jul. 13, other football enthusiasts made similar comparisons.

“Not only football can bring us together,” said legendary midfielder Diego Armando Maradona.

Messi, meanwhile, called for the struggle to continue because “there are still many more” grandchildren to track down. According to the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, some 400 children who were kidnapped or stolen during the dictatorship are still missing.

Ahead of the World Cup, Messi and other players on the Argentine team expressed support for the Abuelas’ cause in a video that transcended national borders.

But Argentine society is still divided 30 years after the return to democracy and the release of the report “Never Again”, produced by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons.

Referring to the kidnapped children in a conversation with IPS, pensioner Edith Gómez referred to them as “the children of the subversives” and said it was better “that they were raised by decent people.”

Laura Carlotto and Oscar Walmir Montoya, the parents of Guido Montoya Carlotto who was finally reunited with his grandmother 36 years later. Credit: Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Laura Carlotto and Oscar Walmir Montoya, the parents of Guido Montoya Carlotto who was finally reunited with his grandmother 36 years later. Credit: Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Arguments of this kind are not heard infrequently.

But things are changing thanks to the adoption of “respect for human rights as a state policy” over the last decade, according to psychoanalyst Viviana Parajón.

Parajón said the new generations, which neither experienced the dictatorship nor were its direct victims, are beginning to internalise concepts like “repudiation of crimes against humanity.”

She mentioned measures like the creation of a “National Day of Memory for Truth and Justice” commemorated on Mar. 24, the day the coup d’etat ushered in the dictatorship. The national day was approved by Congress in 2002 and was declared a holiday in 2005 by then president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007).

The history of the dictatorship and genocide committed by other regimes around the world has also been added to school textbooks.

“Until a few years ago the question of the ‘disappeared’ was only addressed by a small segment of society – the rest took stances that ranged from indifference to the theory that there were two ‘demons’,” she pointed out to IPS.

This argument justifies the human rights abuses committed by the dictatorship because they were comparable to – and responded to – the armed violence waged by the guerrilla organisations.

“What is so nefarious and ghastly was that they went so far as to annihilate not only that generation but several more,” said the psychoanalyst, who added that in this sense the recovery of Guido will have a “healing effect.”

“He’s like everyone’s grandson…a reparation for that horror,” she said.

Fernández said: “He wakes us up from our slumber, shakes us to our inner core because on a personal level we are all sons, daughters, parents or grandparents, and on a social level we share the same history – and this, like our DNA or blood, can’t be erased, it remains latent there until an unexpected event confronts us with that common identity, which can’t be debated or taken away.”

Psychologist and reporter Liliana Helder recalled on Argentine Public Television that after other genocidal events like the Holocaust or the Armenian Genocide, studies have shown that “the two or three following generations continue to feel the consequences, when things have been left hanging.”

“The appearance of each grandchild is a little bit of disinfectant on the wound,” she said.

But in a story such as Carlotto’s and Guido’s, which had a happy ending like in a movie, where the 83-year-old grandmother was finally able to embrace her stolen grandson before it is too late, there is nothing better than letting the main character explain it.

“If by stoning to death the poet you think you’re killing the memory, what is left of this land that is gradually losing its history,” goes one of the songs, “Para la memoria” (For memory), written by the man who until now was known only as Ignacio Hurban, who actually took part in the event “Music for identity” two years ago – organised by the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo.

“The exercise of not forgetting will give us the possibility of not repeating it,” says another verse of the song by the man known now as Guido Montoya Carlotto, which he wrote before he knew who he really was, and before he became a symbol of the recovery of identity in his country.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/guido-the-grandson-in-the-dna-of-all-argentinians/feed/ 0
For Disenfranchised Haitian Islanders, Tourism Signals a Paradise Losthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/for-disenfranchised-haitian-islanders-tourism-signals-a-paradise-lost/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=for-disenfranchised-haitian-islanders-tourism-signals-a-paradise-lost http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/for-disenfranchised-haitian-islanders-tourism-signals-a-paradise-lost/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 16:12:27 +0000 Judith Scherr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=136010 Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

By Judith Scherr
ILE À VACHE, Haiti, Aug 8 2014 (IPS)

Calm waters lap the shore beneath stately coconut palms. Mango trees display their bounty alongside mangrove forests. Goats graze peacefully on hillsides.

Ile à Vache is “the Caribbean’s last treasure island,” says Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism. Just 10.5 km off Haiti’s southwest coast, the 13 by 3.2 km haven is, the ministry continues, “unpaved, unplugged, unspoiled and unlike anywhere else,” and “singular for its complete absence of roads and cars.”“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache." -- Alexis Kenold

These words were written, however, before mangroves were cleared for an international airport, coconut palms were bulldozed for a road, a bay was dredged for yachts and some 40 police officers came with weapons and three all-terrain vehicles to quell protests.

Islanders, estimated at between 14,000 and 20,000, are angry at their exclusion from the government decision-making process that has opened the island for investment in an international airport, hotels, villas, a golf course, and an underwater museum — investments that place residents’ futures in limbo.

“The project came to the island by surprise,” Alexis Kenold, a 40-year-old father of five, told IPS. “The government hadn’t talked to us about it. They want to kick us out in favour of those who would profit from tourist development.”

On May 10, 2013, President Michel Martelly decreed that the island was a “public utility,” zoned for tourism.

“The decree says that no inhabitant of the island owns his land and that the state can do whatever it wants with it,” said Kenold, a member of Konbit Peyizan Ilavach, Farmers Organization of Ile à Vache, formed to oppose the project.

Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin Balmir, who declined an interview for this story, has said that no more than five percent of the islanders will be displaced, that they will be relocated, not removed from the island, and that they will be compensated for their losses.

But involuntary relocation is unacceptable to the islanders, who have held several large demonstrations since December demanding retraction of the decree.

The government reacted to the protests by beefing up police forces and throwing KOPI Vice President Jean Matulnes Lamy into the National Penitentiary, Kenold said. Officials say Lamy is detained on charges unrelated to the protests, but activists say his imprisonment is political.

“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache,”
Kenold said, charging that when he was away from home police ransacked his house and took money he’d saved for his children’s school fees.

He said they’ve harassed and beat others, and now islanders live in fear of the police. Before the demonstrations, there were just three or four police on the peaceful island, he said.

A spate of planned investment projects on Ile à Vache, Haiti has placed residents’ future in limbo. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

A spate of planned investment projects on Ile à Vache, Haiti has placed residents’ future in limbo. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Islanders say they don’t oppose tourism – they might benefit by getting electricity, potable water and government services. But they don’t want to be moved from their five-room homes with spacious yards for trees, gardens and animals, to crowd into two rooms up against neighbours.

And they worry about the island’s fragile ecology.

“The forest is the lungs of the island,” Kenold said. “It’s like they want to sacrifice the heart and the lungs of the island to put in an international airport.”

There’s concern as well for the waters surrounding the island. They “began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems,” Jessica Hsu of the NGO Other Worlds and radio host Jean Claudy Aristil said in a joint presentation at a July Innovators in Coastal Tourism symposium in Grenada.

The project has already impacted some islanders economically. School director Dracen Jean Louienel told IPS that people had used the mangroves that were cut down for the airport to produce charcoal.

“That was how people made their living,” he said, “This destroyed their livelihood.” And building the road removed coconut trees on which other families depended, he said.

Louienel said, moreover, promises of work have not been fulfilled. “People signed up to work on the road, but few were hired,” Louienel said.

Some islanders, however, have profited from the project and support it. Standing in the clearing where the airport is to be built, Gilbert Joseph called the project “a wonderful thing.” Joseph works as a security guard there at night and sells beverages to the construction workers during the day.

Clausel Ilmo, whose son is working as a translator for the Dominican road-building company, also likes the project. He pointed out that where it once took hours to walk to distant parts of the island, one now can go quickly on the road by motorbike.

Father Guy Carter Guerrier, a Catholic priest, did not join the militant protests. Still, he has concerns. “To me, developing the island could be a beautiful project,” he said. “The problem is, the government didn’t include the people here. They even passed over the church. They left everybody out.”

Up the hill from Guerrier’s church, Sr. Flora Blanchette, a French-Canadian Franciscan nun who’s run an orphanage on the island since 1981, shared her hopes and concerns.

New roads can help people access health care, schools and food, she said, but the fruit trees that nourish the children should be protected.

“What I’m hoping is that they bring the essentials for people living on the island,” she said, “that they truly bring development for all the social classes to benefit.”

In Costa Rica, the whole population has benefited from tourism, Elizabeth Becker, author of “Overbooked: the Global Business of Travel and Tourism” told IPS by phone. There, locals have input into development, she said.

Implemented correctly, Haiti could greatly benefit from the booming tourism market, she added.

However, “bottom-up tourism is the best way to do ecotourism,” Becker said. “People should not be losing their property rights in order to have tourism. People should instead have … a voice in what kind of tourism they want.”

Cambodia’s tourist development provides a cautionary tale, she said. The government took away people’s property rights and parks protections and did not consult locals before installing hotels and airports.

In Cambodia, “all that great money that supposedly comes from tourism doesn’t land in local hands,” she said. “It either lands with the elite or with foreigners.”

Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism emphasises environmentalism. The Ile à Vache “project objective is to develop sustainable tourism based on the practices of ecotourism,” an online ministry slideshow says. But islanders say the government hasn’t demonstrated care for the environment.

Documents also say the government will undertake a “social improvements programme.” It has recently dug new wells, built a community centre, installed outdoor solar lights, and distributed rice and fishing equipment.

But Kenold says it was only “after the population rose up, that they came with a few grains of rice to appease the anger of the people.”

“I’m not against tourist development, but it’s the way they’re going about it,” Kenold said, adding that people are open to dialogue with government officials, but only after the decree is retracted, Lamy is released from prison and police are removed from the island.

“After lifting the decree that would disposes the inhabitants,” he said, “they can come with their projects and we will come with ours.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at judithscherr@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/for-disenfranchised-haitian-islanders-tourism-signals-a-paradise-lost/feed/ 0