Friday, January 08, 2010

Around Latin America

-The Honduran Supreme Court has appointed a judge to investigate a prosecutor's filed case against the military for its role in forcing Manuel Zelaya from the country on June 28. No warrants can be issued until the judge rules on the filing. That may sound nice, but given that this is the same Supreme Court that upheld the illegal removal of Zelaya, I don't think much will come from this. Still, if something is to happen, it has to start somewhere.

-Additionally, the Micheletti regime is apparently broke: "The Finance Minister for the de facto government, Gabriela Nuñez announced today that she does not currently have access to sufficient funds to pay government employees for January. It all boils down to cash flow. She said she has access to about 400 million lempiras, and needs a total of about 1,500 million lempiras. In addition, she noted that the government has run up large debts with suppliers, including 450 million lempiras for medical supplies, and a further 700 million lempiras owed to road construction and paving contractors." I don't know to what extent international reaction to the coup and reduction of financial support has played a role in this, but I suspect it must be at least somewhat significant, and nothing less than what the Micheletti has brought upon itself.

-Is Peru's economic star rising in Latin America? A road between Peru and Brazil and a growth in GDP of 9.8% last year indicate Peru may be in for a brighter future.

-Not as bright for Peru's future: illegal gold mining in Peru's Amazonian basin is causing long-term environmental damage : "it takes about five grams of mercury to extract a gram of gold. That mercury is usually tossed overboard, poisoning one of the world’s most biodiverse rain forests. And Borian’s form of mining is among the most benign. Illegal cartels with heavy equipment clear-cut and mine huge areas of virgin forest, alarming environmental activists."

-In response to Mexico City legalizing abortion, surrounding states are making it increasingly difficult to obtain an abortion in the rest of the country:

In response to a Mexican Supreme Court ruling in August 2008 upholding a Mexico City law permitting abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 17 of 32 Mexican states have approved amendments to their constitutions declaring that life begins at conception and granting legal rights to fetuses, the Chicago Tribune reports. Veracruz, which in November 2009 became the most recent state to enact an antiabortion-rights amendment, has called on the federal government to consider adding a similar amendment to the national constitution.
It's hard to be surprised by this. Anti-choice sentiment stemming from conservative social values and Catholicism made any kind of response in Mexico likely. Still, this particular response from other state governments, and the pressure for a national law banning abortion, is very unfortunate. While each state can do what it wants (in the same way the D.F. can and did), it would be very bad of there were a national law enacted in Mexico.

-According to Venezuela's state-run National Electric Corporation, the country could be facing a major power outage nationwide in the next 3-4 months if water levels in the reservoirs continue to drop. Weather is funny, so there's no way of predicting accurately what will happen in that time period; still, power loss for an entire country would be tough to deal with politically, socially, or economically.

-While the recent massive rainfall in Brazil has led to the deaths of dozens, it may have the opposite effect in terms of agricultural production, as "Brazil’s coffee crop may beat the 48.48 million bag record this year, the country’s crop supply agency said in a report which also raised forecasts for the newly-begun soybean harvest."

-Finally, Lula is expected to decide soon which company he will contract for the a $4.4 billion U.S. dollar fighter jet order. In addition to Boeing (a U.S. company), France's Dassault and Sweden's Saab are in consideration. If Boeing is selected, it would create thousands of jobs for the struggling U.S. economy, a fact that didn't deter Republican Senator George LeMieux from doing all he could to damage U.S.-Brazil relations prior to the approval last week of Thomas Shannon as ambassador to Brazil.