Tuesday, November 8, 2011

U.S. and Bolivia Restore Diplomatic Ties

Three years after Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador from the Andean country, the two countries have agreed to restore full diplomatic ties. According to a joint statement published on the State Department’s website yesterday, the U.S. and Bolivia have reached an accord which “establishes a framework by which the two governments will pursue relations on the basis of mutual respect and shared responsibility.” The statement also claims that the agreement was signed by Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Alurralde and U.S. Undersecretary for Global Affairs Maria Otero.

As the BBC points out, Morales kicked out then-U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in September 2008 on the grounds that he had been encouraging the pro-autonomy efforts of opposition leaders in the country’s eastern lowlands. In November, he expelled DEA agents, also claiming that they were involving themselves too heavily in local politics. While the agreement is certainly a step forward in U.S.-Bolivian relations, it is not immediately clear how it will address issues of political sovereignty, or whether drug enforcement officials will be allowed back into the country.  

Yet another unknown factor in the agreement is whether it will cause the U.S. to restore the trade preferences previously guaranteed to Bolivia as part of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA). According to the AP, the program has allowed the coca-producing countries in the region to export thousands of products into the U.S. since 1991, in an effort to encourage small farmers to grow licit alternatives to coca.  The news agency claims that the loss of these preferences has damaged Bolivia’s investment profile and cost it thousands of jobs.

News Briefs

·         The New York Times profiles the work of the Cuban medical mission in Haiti, which was instrumental in identifying the cholera outbreak in the country and is now playing a key role in fighting it. Because of their efforts, local NGOs and diplomats alike are praising them for their dedication. Paul Farmer, the United Nations deputy special envoy to Haiti and a founder of the non-profit group Partners in Health, told the paper that the Cubans’ assistance is vital in Haiti, noting that “Half of the NGOs are already gone, and the Cubans are still there.”

·         Meanwhile, the AP has published an interview with Jimmy Carter, who has also been a major champion of the Haitian reconstruction effort.  According to the ex-president, not enough houses are being constructed for poor Haitians.

·         In response to a 2009 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling which found that Mexico had failed to prevent the murder of three women in Ciudad Juarez, officials from the country publicly apologized for their negligence on Monday. In the past decade, thousands of women have been killed in the city.

·         AFP reports that a lieutenant of the Tijuana Cartel has been caught after he opened fire on a vehicle carrying two of his rivals while driving through the northern city. Authorities have signaled that Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha, 34, took orders directly from Tijuana Cartel head Fernando Sanchez Arellano, alias "The Engineer." According to security spokesman Col. Ricardo Trevilla, Sillas' arrest will "considerably affect the Arellano Felix organization's criminal activities."

·         Reuters takes a look at the recent elections in Nicaragua and Guatemala, noting the influence of the Cold War’s legacy on both contests. According to the news agency, the victory of Ortega and Perez “underline the diverging paths the two largely agrarian nations have taken since the Cold War, whose ideological tensions forged a generation of politicians.”

·         Both James Bosworth and Greg Weeks offer some thoughtful analysis of what Otto Perez’s victory in Guatemala means for the country, with the former arguing that Perez owes his victory to his familiarity among voters and promises to increase security and the latter taking stock of the situation that Perez will inherit.

·         El Nuevo Herald reports that Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has publicly called on one of his two vice-presidents, Omar Chehade, to resign in the midst of allegations of influence peddling. As of today, however, Chehade has still not signaled whether he will step down voluntarily or not.  

·         The Center for Democracy in the Americas has released the latest installment of its 21st Century Cuba research series, entitled “Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for U.S. Policy.” The report details the economic reforms that have taking place under President Raul Castro, identifies the areas where more improvement is needed, and ends with recommendations for a more  just and strategic foreign policy to Cuba in the future.