Thursday, October 10, 2013

NSA Spying Damages U.S. Relations with Latin America; Mexico Strips National Park Designation from Nevado de Toluca; Nicaragua-Colombia Territorial Row Continues

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Articles in SourceMex, NotiCen and NotiSur for October 9-11

NSA Spying Damages U.S. Relations with Latin America
A wave of indignation spread through the region following revelations by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden that the US spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and other South American leaders. In response, on Sept. 17, the Brazilian president postponed indefinitely her planned October official visit to Washington. A week later, in her speech at the opening session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Rousseff had harsh words regarding US foreign policy and President Barack Obama, saying, "In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy." In an almost natural consequence of the general condemnation, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño spoke for the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR) to say that the regional organization's political leadership had entrusted its Consejo de Defensa to analyze the possibilities for "confronting US espionage." Ecuador has the pro tem presidency of UNASUR. -Andrés Gaudín    Read More

Ecuador Forgets, Colombia Wins
With three controversial agreements, the Ecuadoran government decided to forget incidents that strained its diplomatic relations with neighboring Colombia. These include the aggression Ecuador suffered from Colombia's bombing of Angostura and downplaying the damages caused by the fumigations to eradicate coca fields in Colombia territory, but which affected the health and destroyed the crops of Ecuadoran campesinos living near the border. These agreements show that the Ecuadoran government has made consolidating trade relations and normalizing diplomatic relations with Colombia a priority, even when this again puts at risk the border communities, which will also see their ability to organize reduced because of the offers of insufficient economic compensation. -Luis Ángel Saavedra   Read More

No End In Sight For Nicaragua-Colombia Sea-Border Standoff
A maritime border dispute that was supposed to have been settled last year by the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) continues to fuel a war of words between Nicaragua and Colombia, whose respective leaders--Presidents Daniel Ortega and Juan Manuel Santos--dug their heels in still deeper in recent weeks with fresh legal challenges that threaten to extend the discord for years to come. Last November, ICJ, upheld Colombia’s claim to the Caribbean archipelago of San Andrés--even though its islands are far closer to Nicaragua--but established Nicaraguan sovereignty over much of the surrounding sea. The Santos administration made it clear from the start it was unwilling to accept the loss. The only way Colombia will accept changes to its boundary lines, Santos explained, is through direct negotiations with Nicaragua. Nicaragua says there is nothing to negotiate--except maybe how best to implement the ICJ’s binding decision. -Benjamin Witte-Lebhar  Read More

Environmental Groups Protest Government’s Decision to Remove National Park Status from Nevado de Toluca
Two environmentally sensitive areas in central Mexico--Nevado de Toluca National Park and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve--have come under increased scrutiny because of the potential for long-term damage to the habitats in the two sites. Nevado de Toluca, southwest of Mexico City in México state, made headlines after President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration moved to strip the national-park designation from the site to remove restrictions on development. The move was opposed by environmental groups in Mexico and overseas, which urged the administration to reconsider its decision. There was also renewed attention on the monarch-butterfly reserve after a new study revealed that small-scale cutting of trees was continuing in the protected site despite severe restrictions imposed by the federal government in 2007. -Carlos Navarro   Read More

U.S. Treasury Identifies Honduran Drug Kingpins, U.S. Ambassador Warns Against Aiding Traffickers
Sept. 19 was a hectic day in the struggle against drug trafficking in Honduras. The events began with the US Treasury Department revealing the identity of seven people and several businesses as part of the Honduran drug-trafficking gang Los Cachiros. Addressing a conference on money laundering early that afternoon, US Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske warned financial institutions as well as people helping to launder assets about the risk they place themselves in. Late that evening, Policía Nacional (PN) chief Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla told reporters that members of the Cobra elite police strike force along with Army troops had secured more than 100 assets--among them real estate that included a zoo, vehicles, bank accounts--worth more than US$500 million, successfully closing an intelligence operation launched seven years ago. -George Rodríguez    Read More

Government Reduces Growth Projections After Recent Storms
The Mexican government has reduced its growth forecast for 2013 because of the two storm systems that hit Mexico in mid-September, causing significant damage in a large area of the country. The Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público (SHCP) now projects GDP growth in 2013 at 1.7%, compared with an earlier estimate of 1.8%. Many private analysts suggest, however, that the SHCP has overstated its economic projections, particularly since the country’s economic performance was already much more sluggish than projected for the first half of the year. In a recent survey by the central bank (Banco de México, Banxico) among private economists, the average of projections for Mexico’s GDP this year was 1.4%. The economic projections have prompted a debate on whether the tax plan proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto is what the economy needs to recover. -Carlos Navarro Read More

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