Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WNU #976: Colombia and Venezuela Plan Stimulus

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #976, January 25, 2009

1. Colombia: Uribe, Chavez Plan Stimulus
2. Colombia: Ex-Mayor Guilty in 2003 Murder
3. Latin America: Reactions as Obama Takes Office
4. Cuba: Fidel Castro Reappears
5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, Latin America

ISSN#: 1084. Weekly News 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 weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com

*1. Colombia: Uribe, Chávez Plan Stimulus
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez met in Cartagena in the northern Colombian department of Bolívar on Jan. 24 to discuss economic cooperation in response to the global crisis. They set up an economic commission which started working immediately "to design a package of new tools, to review the ones that exist and to strengthen them," Chávez said during a press conference after the meeting. The two presidents also agreed to create a $200 million joint fund to extend credits to small and medium businesses and to stimulate trade between the two countries; in addition, they plan a fund for infrastructure work in the areas along the Colombia-Venezuela border.

Trade between the two countries reached a record $7.2 billion in 2008, with Colombian sales to Venezuela totaling about $6 billion; Venezuela is second only to the US as a trading partner for Colombia. At the Jan. 24 press conference Chávez projected that trade between Colombia and Venezuela could be increased by 43% within one year. He stressed the importance of this sort of economic activity to fight a crisis that he called "a threat to the world" which "is starting to strike the five continents harshly." The presidents plan to sign the accords at their next meeting, in April in Venezuela. (El Nacional (Caracas) 1/24/09 from AFP; UnionRadio.net (Caracas) 1/25/09; CadenaGlobal.com (Caracas) 1/25/09)

This was Chávez's first official visit to Colombia since Aug. 31, 2007, although the two presidents held meetings at border towns in October 2007 and July 2008. Relations have been tense between Uribe's rightwing government and the leftist Chávez over the past year and a half, with Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos accusing Chávez of "supporting" the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). [In March 2008 Chávez called Uribe a "lackey," "liar" and "criminal"; see Update #937.] "[I]f I were supporting any subversive, terrorist or violent movement in Colombia, I wouldn't be here," Chávez told reporters when he arrived in Cartagena for the Jan. 24 meeting. He said he was "making a plea to the Colombians and the Venezuelans: let's not do damage [to our relations], let's not be masochists." (La Jornada (Mexico) 1/25/09 from AFP, Notimex, DPA)

*2. Colombia: Ex-Mayor Guilty in 2003 Murder
On Jan. 21 the Colombian Attorney General's Office reported that Julio César Ardila Torres, the former mayor of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, had been found guilty of ordering the Apr. 6, 2003 murder of local journalist José Emeterio Rivas [see Updates #689, 727]. Judge Nelly Vallejo Aranda sentenced Ardila to 28 years and eight months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.192 billion pesos (about $530,000). The court also convicted two former municipal employees, Fabio Pajón Lizcano and Abelardo Rueda Tobón, and sentenced them to 26 years and eight months.

Rivas was the host of a radio program that exposed links between the Barrancabermeja city government and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). According to testimony by former paramilitary Reiner Enrique Brocate, Ardila planned the murder with paramilitary leader Pablo Emilio Quintero ("Bedoya"), who confessed in June 2007 to carrying out the actual killing. Ardila surrendered to authorities on Apr. 30, 2008, after several years as a fugitive. "Here everybody knew that [Ardila] had ordered José Emeterio killed," a co-worker of Rivas' said after the sentencing. "What surprised us was that they convicted him." (Semana (Colombia) 1/22/09, some information from Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (Flip); Latin American Herald Tribune 1/22/09)

*3. Latin America: Reactions as Obama Takes Office
Latin American leaders were generally cautious in their assessment of Barack Obama, a former Democratic senator who was sworn in on Jan. 20 as US president, succeeding conservative Republican George W. Bush.

On Jan. 19, during his weekly radio show, "Breakfast with the President," Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said: "I think if he wants to, Obama can improve the bilateral relations" between Brazil and the US. He urged the new president to end the US trade embargo against Cuba since "there is no scientific and political explanation for the embargo to continue." (Xinhua 1/20/09)

In an opinion piece posted on Juventud Rebelde's website on Jan. 22, former Cuban president Fidel Castro wrote: "I personally harbor no doubt of the honesty with which Obama expressed his ideas" in his inauguration address. But Castro added that "despite his noble intentions, some questions remain unanswered. Like, how can a wasteful, consumerist system protect the environment?" (Bloomberg 1/22/09) Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was visiting Cuba when Obama was inaugurated, remarked that it was good to have a president with "intelligence and rationality." (World Politics Review 1/22/09)

The harshest words came from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. During the week of Jan. 11 the US Spanish-language network Univision broadcast an interview in which Obama accused Chávez of blocking progress in the region and "exporting terrorist activities." On Jan. 18 Chávez said he thought "the same stench is coming" as with Bush. "This is the US Empire we're talking about," he added. (World Politics Review 1/22/09; La Jornada (Mexico) 1/25/09 from AFP, Notimex, DPA)

*4. Cuba: Fidel Castro Reappears
On Jan. 21 Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Castro met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz during a brief visit to Havana. In a column published the same day, Castro said his discussion with Fernández was "intense and interesting, as I expected." Fernández told reporters afterwards that Castro seemed to be "very well." This was apparently Castro's first meeting with a visiting leader since Nov. 18, when he was photographed with Chinese president Hu Jintao; the article was his first statement in 20 days. There had been speculation that Castro was seriously ill [see Update #973].

In an opinion piece published on Jan. 22, Castro said he was "well" but had cut back on his columns in 2009 "in order not to interfere with or impede the compañeros of the [Communist] party or the government in the constant decisions they must make in response to the objective difficulties arising from the world financial crisis." Castro, who is 82, was formally replaced as president by his brother Raúl Castro in February 2008 [see Update #936]. Fidel Castro remarked in his Jan. 22 column that he doesn't expect to have the "privilege" of observing and meditating on political events in four years when US president Barack Obama's first term ends. (La Jornada 1/22/09, 1/24/09 from correspondent, 1/23/09 from Reuters, AFP)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, Latin America

Bolivia Looking Forward: New Constitution Passed, Celebrations Hit the Streets

Bolivia: Evo nationalizes foreign gas company on eve of constitutional vote

Spilling Ink Instead of Blood: Bolivia Poised to Vote on New Constitution

¿Sí o No? Bolivians Mobilize for National Vote on New Constitution

Bolivia's New Constitution

Peru seeks investment for gas pipeline, energy projects

Peru: two police killed evicting squatters from nature reserve

Peru: indigenous community takes mineral company workers hostage

Ask the Ecuadorian Government to Protect Human Rights During Upcoming Anti-Mining Demonstration http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1672/68/

Ecuador: Mining Protests Marginalized, But Growing

Chávez hot and cold on Obama

Why Obama Should Meet With Hugo Chavez

2009 Salvadoran Elections Blog Launch

El Salvador: elections marred by violence, irregularities

New Report on El Salvador Elections

El Salvador: Spanish Judge to Investigate Murders of Jesuit Priests http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1675/68/

Deported Mexican activist to Obama: stop immigration raids

NAFTA boosted Mexican immigration: study

Mexico: farmers block roads to protest fuel prices

Mexico: human "stew-maker" busted, more severed heads appear

After Four Years, No Justice for Murdered Haitian Journalist http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1676/68/

After Bahia: Toward a New Latin America of the 21st Century http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1674/1/

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

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1 comment:

Egy Azziera said...

We all have our thoughts about our new president Barack Obama, which most people would love to share with one another. Barack Obama went further than any previous president in apologising for American behaviour.