Monday, June 4, 2012

At Summit, Morales Demands Dramatic Change in the OAS

Bolivia President Evo Morales described several recommendations for reforming the Organization of American States (OAS), during the inauguration of an assembly summit Sunday in Cochabamba, Bolivia. These would include revoking the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty (TIAR), the article which maintains that an attack against one Latin American country should be considered an attack against the entire region. Morales said that if the TIAR was really a functioning agreement, it should have guided Latin America’s response during Argentina’s dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falklands Islands. Mercopress reports that Morales’ reference to Argentina’s conflict was met with applause and cheers

According to La Razon, Morales also said that the OAS should scrap another multilateral institution, the Inter-American Defense (IAD) Board, which has been criticized for enforcing US Cold War-military policy in Latin America. The OAS should also dissolve the infamous military training facility formerly known as the School of the Americas, Morales added.

US news wire services like the AP focused on some of Morales’ other proposals, such as the elimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHRC). Both Venezuela and Ecuador have spoken out in favor of such a measure; both countries have faced frequent criticism from the IAHRC for human rights problems. Earlier this year, President Hugo Chavez again threatened to withdraw from the IAHRC altogether, which he says did nothing to condemn the 2002 coup which temporarily ejected him from power.

During his remarks, Morales said the IAHRC should also supervise human rights violations in the US, in order to be considered a more legitimate body. “If they don’t want to watch over human rights in the US, better that the IAHRC disappear,” he stated.

The AFP angled its coverage around Morales’ remarks about nationalizing natural resources in Latin America, concluding that, “His latest speech was likely to discourage potential foreign investors.”

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza followed up Morales’ speech, asking that the countries attending the assembly focus instead on the official agenda, food security in the Americas.

The three-day summit is the second time that Bolivia has hosted an OAS assembly since 1979. The highest ranking US State Department official attending the assembly is Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jackson.

News Briefs

  • A judge ordered a Peruvian mayor accused of inciting anti-mining protests to be held under preventive detention for up to five months, reports the BBC and AP. The mayor, Oscar Mollohuanca, called the decision “political prison.” The southern province of Espinar has been rocked by protests against proposed mining projects which critics say will do great environmental damage. After the demonstrations grew violent, the government declared a 30-day state of emergency in the province. And with the mayor of the province in detention, protest supporters now say it will be even more difficult to hold productive round-table discussions about the future of the mining projects. RPP has a detailed profile of Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca, noting that this is the second time he was elected to the office, and that he is a leader of recently created political party “Land and Dignity” (Tierra y Dignidad). The party draws many of its recruits from those who headed an aggressive anti-mining protest in Cajamarca province last year, which also forced the government to declare a temporary state of emergency. Global Voices has more helpful background -- as well as a day-by-day account of the protests -- of the Espinar conflict.
  • Adolfo Calero, leader of one of the earliest, and eventually the largest, US-backed Contra groups, died Saturday in Nicaragua. Calero managed the bank accounts into which the US secretly deposited some $18 million in military equipment and another $14 million that was used to buy basic supplies. As the New York Times describes, Calero was also known for providing key testimony during the “Iran-Contra” scandal, describing how Oliver North diverted funds towards Nicaragua.
  • Five bodies burned beyond recognition were found in an SUV in Arizona near the Mexico border, possibly related to Mexico’s criminal violence, reports Fox News Latino.
  • Brazil has closed its largest open-air rubbish dump, to be replaced with a recycling plant. The BBC report includes a slideshow.
  • Colombia drug lord alias “Diego Rastrojo” was arrested in Venezuela. This follows the surrender of another Rastrojos leader, Javier Antonio Calle Serna, last May.
  • Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN) criticized former president Vicente Fox for appearing to imply that voters should rally around the most likely winner of the July 1 presidential election -- rival candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
  • After Venezuela extended a ban against the civilian sale of arms and ammunition, first announced June 2, authorities seized 87 guns, 18 grenades, and nearly 65,000 rounds of ammo in the troubled La Planta prison, reports EFEThe AP provides slightly different numbers for the seizures.
  • Thousands marched in Colombia’s capital Sunday in protest of the recent murder and rape of a female street vendor, calling attention to issues of gender violence, reports the BBC.
  • From Venezuela, the AP on the seamstress who makes the short-sleeved, collared shirts popularized by opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. His decision to sport clothing made in Venezuela by working-class people may be a clever move towards winning support from the social groups that typically vote for President Hugo Chavez, the AP argues. Sales of the garment have increased dramatically after Capriles began wearing them on the campaign trail, the article adds
  • The AP on a corruption scandal and supposed cover-up in Argentina that some are calling Nixonian, involving Vice President Amado Boudou. According to the allegations, Boudou is linked to a holding company that that funneled cash towards pleasure trips for Boudou’s friends and family. The article notes that justice generally “moves slow” in Argentina, and that it is highly unlikely that the pro-government lawmakers will put the investigation at the top of their agenda. Elsewhere, the Latin American Herald Tribune reports that Argentina is reportedly considering putting government icon Eva Peron on a new five-peso bill, in honor of the 60th anniversary of her death on July 26.
  • The New York Times profiles the reporter handling the drugs and crime beat for Paraguay’s main newspaper, ABC, in a violent border town near Brazil. Cándido Figueredo has survived 17 years on the job by doing most of his reporting by phone from his home, protected by 24-hour police security. Paraguay is one of Latin America’s relatively safer countries for journalists, ranking 84th out of 179 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index, far ahead of Honduras (136th), Colombia (143rd), and Mexico (149th). But journalists who cover crime, like Figueredo, are considered especially at risk, and media based along the Paraguay-Brazil border are facing increased violence, according to a report released in March by the International Press Institute which focuses on Brazil.
  • A television reporter in the Dominican Reporter received several threats, after running a story alleging that a powerful senator used his political influence to win some $200 million of construction contracts in Haiti, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Miami Herald Op-Ed columnist Andres Oppenheimer critiques Latin America’s response to the crisis in Syria, calling it “shockingly tame for a region that has suffered gross human rights violations in the past.” Over at the Wall Street Journal, columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady speaks with Repsol over Argentina’s recent decision to nationalize the oil company partly owned by Repsol.

-- Elyssa Pachico