Monday, July 21, 2008

WNU #955: Argentine Senate Kills Export Tax

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #955, July 20, 2008

1. Argentina: Senate Kills Export Tax
2. Colombia: Lula and Uribe Sign Pacts
3. Venezuela: Citgo Gives US Lightbulbs
4. Mexico: Activist's Home Is Searched
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Central America, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Argentina: Senate Kills Export Tax
On the morning of July 17, after 16 hours of debate, Argentina's Senate rejected a law proposed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to raise the tax on soy exports from 34% to 44%. The Chamber of Deputies had approved the bill earlier. The measure would have made into law a tax hike that Fernández put into effect previously by decree. The Senate was tied over the bill until Vice President Julio Cobos, who is connected to agricultural interests, ended the impasse by voting against his own government. It was "the most difficult day of my life," he said. A number of senators from Fernández's Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist) also voted against the bill.

Soy is a major export crop for Argentine farmers, and in March agricultural producers responded to the tax increase with a strike that at times threatened to cut off food from the main cities. The strike also sharply divided much of the left, with some groups supporting Fernández, some supporting the strikers and some opposing both sides [see Updates #941, 946, 950]. On July 15 supporters of the farmers and of the government held massive competing demonstrations in Buenos Aires. Former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007), Fernández's husband, addressed the pro-government demonstration, which local media said drew 95,000 supporters, including such left-leaning groups as the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Other leftist groups participated in the pro-strike demonstration, along with rightwing organizations; about 225,000 people reportedly came out for the farmers' protest, far more than for the government. (Xinhua 7/15/08; La Jornada (Mexico) 7/16/08, 7/18/08 from correspondent)

*2. Colombia: Lula and Uribe Sign Pacts
Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva arrived in Bogotá on July 18 for a three-day visit to Colombia that included joining Colombian president Alvaro Uribe in the inauguration of a meeting of business leaders from the two countries. On July 19 Lula and Uribe met in the Hatogrande estate on the outskirts of the capital to sign accords on investment, the environment and biofuels, and on security along the 1,500-km border Brazil and Colombia share in the Amazon region. At a press conference Uribe announced that Colombia would be joining the Defense Council of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). On July 20 the two presidents were scheduled to meet with Peruvian president Alan García at Leticia on the southern border to sign a tripartite agreement, although the content wasn't revealed. The three presidents were also planning to celebrate Colombia's Independence Day together.

According to Colombian foreign minister Jaime Bermúdez, the agreements between Lula, a center-leftist, and the rightwing Uribe include "a memorandum of cooperation in the fight against trafficking in arms, munitions and explosives," and another memorandum on the exchange of military intelligence. These agreements would undercut the position of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the Amazon region. The Brazilian daily O Estado de Sao Paulo had reported before Lula's visit that he would give Uribe "explicit support" in the fight against the FARC. (La Jornada 7/19/08 from DPA, AFP, Notmex, 7/20/08 from AFP, DPA)

*3. Venezuela: Citgo Gives US Lightbulbs
In mid-July Citgo--the US oil distributor owned by the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA)--began a program to distribute compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to low- and middle-income families in Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas; Lamont, Illinois; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Washington, DC. Ultimately the program is intended to supply some 460,000 of the energy-saving lightbulbs to homes in these cities and in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Madison, Wisconsin. Former Congress member Joe Kennedy II (D-MA), Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez and Citgo president Alejandro Grarado attended the inauguration of the program in a Washington, DC home. The CFL supplements the Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil program, which has provided winter fuel assistance to more than 1.2 million US households during the past two years [see Update #826]. (People's Weekly World 7/15/08 from correspondent)
The state of New Hampshire is now participating in the heating oil program; it is the last state in the Northeast to
participate. Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) called the program a "disgrace" when it started in 2006, and Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, kept New Hampshire out of it. Now that the price of heating oil has risen from about $2.50 a gallon in the Northeast to an average $4.61--as of June 2008--the local politicians have changed their position. On July 17 Sununu criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías but said he has no problem with people getting help from Citizens Energy, a nonprofit organization set up by Joseph Kennedy that is managing the program. (San Francisco Chronicle 7/18/08 from AP)

*4. Mexico: Activist's Home Is Searched
On July 15 Abdallán Guzmán Cruz, a former deputy in Mexico's federal Congress, charged that unknown persons broke into his home in Morelia, Michoacán, the night of July 7 and stole papers that he had gathered during years of investigation into the disappearance of five relatives from 1974 to 1976, during the Mexican military's "dirty war" against suspected leftists. He said some books formerly considered "subversive" were also stolen, along with 60,000 pesos (about $5,900) and some rings, but other valuable objects were not touched. Guzmán Cruz is an activist in the Diego Lucero Foundation, a human rights group. Another activist from the foundation, José Francisco Paredes Ruiz, went missing in September 2007; no information is available on where he is now and on his physical condition.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders--a program sponsored jointly by the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)--has called for the Mexican government to guarantee the safety of Cruz Guzmán, his family and other members of the Diego Lucero Foundation, and to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation of the events of July 7 and the disappearance of Paredes Ruiz. Letters can be sent to Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (, Governance Secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo ( and Michoacán governor Leonel Godoy Rangel ( Sample letters are available from the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH). (Cambio de Michoacan 7/16/08; OMCT-FIDH urgent action 7/16/08)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Central America, Mexico

Argentina: "Domino Effect" Feared in Withdrawal of Mining Company

The Soybean Crop in Uruguay: The Creation of a Power Block

Peru: Social Rebellion Spreads Nationwide

Colombia bashes Nicaragua over FARC dialogue offer; Ortega bashes back

Venezuela: opposition protest "blacklist"

Anti-Chávez Student Group Attacks Police, Creates Chaos in Mérida, Venezuela

Venezuela to Give Energy-Saving Light Bulbs to Low-Income U.S. Communities

A Recent History of the Disability Rights Movement in El Salvador

Central America: Winners and Losers in the Global Mining Industry

Metal Mining in Central America: Pain and Resistance

Solidarity Needed in Oaxaca

Mexico: narco gangs gird with car bombs, submarines

National Human Rights Commission blasts Mexican army

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

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