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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Future of U.S. Surveillance

NSA Revelations an Opportunity for United States and Brazil.

Julia E. Sweig

Although revelations of NSA spying provoked an angry reaction last week in Brazil, the United States and Brazil should treat the crisis as an opportunity. Read the Op-Ed
 www.cfr.org/intelligence/nsa-siva…


Meekly – the CFR said:

We are now three months away from President Dilma’s state visit to Washington. For the last few years, the big unfinished items on the bilateral agenda have been trade and the Security Council. Not so defense.

A defense cooperation agreement signed in 2010, even as tension over Iran might well have thwarted it, has created some profitable long term opportunities for Brazilian and American defense firms to enter one another’s markets. Progress in this space is remarkable, if for some uncomfortable, given the history of mutual suspicion when it comes to security affairs.

Now the arena of cyber security and internet governance—sovereign and global—also has the potential to create some very interesting presidential conversations about the tensions these two leaders face between privacy, human rights, civil liberties and security, and about the differences and potential synergies in our cultures of innovation and industrial policy. The topic also opens a door into the global personalities of the two countries, in this case regarding the merits and demerits of multilateral institutions for governing the internet.

Finally, are there any lessons to be learned regarding South America and regional security? Brazil’s experience with SIVAM is an example not only of extensive cooperation and technology sharing between Brazil and the United States—in this case via the defense giant Raytheon—but also an instance wherein Brazil seems to have avoided provoking its neighbors with a sovereign surveillance system, the potential impact of which need not be limited to Brazil’s territorial borders. Although the parallels are imperfect, it might be instructive for the presidents of the two biggest democracies in the Americas to recall the positive SIVAM experience when having the inevitable heart to heart about the NSA disclosures.”

The issue is what will be said behind closed doors and how the US will explain that massive surveillance that clearly had nothing to do with security?

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Will Snowden Come Between United States and Latin America?

Christopher Sabatini

Recent revelations about U.S. surveillance activities in Latin America have provoked a range of negative responses from regional leaders, but the practical consequences will be marginal. Read the Interview
 www.cfr.org/latin-america-and-the…

Recent leaks reveal that U.S. surveillance programs extended into Latin America, going beyond security and military affairs into commercial enterprises as well. How surprising is this?

It’s surprising that in most of the cases, the United States was spying on some of its closest allies in the region. Mexico, Colombia, Brazil—these weren’t places that were hotbeds of terrorism or where we were even spying or gathering information on matters of terrorism. If proven true, [the allegations] reveal that we were gathering information that extended beyond the supposed justification for the NSA program.

Second, while all countries spy on each other, what’s different is the type of spying. We were massively collecting information, potentially even on their citizens communicating with each other. That has triggered an understandable reaction from these governments for the United States to explain what it was doing. This isn’t government-to-government spying, or even government spying on people they suspect could place our national interests at risk. This is casting a very wide net both in terms of the people whose information is being collected and also the topics around which it’s being collected. If proven to be true, this surveillance may very much violate the U.S. congressional justification under which a lot of this had occurred. A third surprising element, if proven true, is that the United States was doing this with the complicity of telecom companies in Brazil—though the U.S. ambassador to Brazil denies these reports.

Some critics have accused some of these countries of hypocrisy for denouncing the United States, because they have their own domestic wiretapping programs. So to what extent is this about privacy, or are the reactions more about sovereignty?

First, there was a lot of heated rhetoric from some leaders even before the allegations came out—about the asylum-seeking, about the unfortunate grounding of President Morales’s plane—that goes far beyond the legitimate concerns of what the spying actually entailed. That rhetoric spilled over in ways that are not very constructive, to the point where you even had Mercosur, a trade association, promise to pull its ambassadors out of Europe—a move that goes far beyond the actual functions of a supposed customs union.

Additionally, two presidential summits have been dedicated to this in Latin America—the Unasur summit that brought together [Rafael] Correa, [Nicolas] Maduro, and [Cristina] Kirchner to denounce the grounding of Evo Morales’s plane, and then Mercosur. It seems disproportionate that so much of these presidents’ time, especially in countries that are facing very severe economic news, would be dedicated to this at a summit level. That’s unprecedented when compared to other regions.

Second, it is largely a sovereignty issue. For a number of these countries, the memories of authoritarian regimes spying on citizens, rounding up activists and opposition, are still very fresh. [Brazilian president] Dilma Rousseff was tortured and detained during the military regime. Mexico dissidents and leaders were also spied on by the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] before 2001. The reactions need to be understood in that sense.

The other thing is, yes, the United States has helped some of these countries set up surveillance programs. Washington was instrumental in helping Colombia set up the programs it uses to monitor FARC [paramilitary group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], but the United States has always tried to separate those efforts from spying on citizens for political reasons. But once the equipment and know-how has been turned over, anything can happen. That’s what we’ve seen in the case of Panama, for example, where it became known fairly early on that the government has a tendency to eavesdrop on perceived political opponents. That’s where we do need to understand that the alleged NSA revelations are a different kettle of fish. In some ways, it’s “they’re our citizens; we get to spy on them, but you don’t.”

Are there clear distinctions in the ways that Latin American countries have reacted?

There is a range of differences: some reactions are serious, some are performative, and some are simply taking advantage of this. In countries that have taken this as a serious matter—Mexico, Colombia, and Chile—there has been that level of “let’s get to the bottom of it,” couched within a legitimate sense of national sovereignty and protecting their citizens. And the responses have been delivered [to the United States] through diplomatic channels.

In between, you have countries like Brazil, which, for reasons perhaps very much tied to recent history, has made moves outside the realm of typical diplomatic activity, and has called the U.S. ambassador to testify before the Brazilian congress.

Countries on the other end of this spectrum [Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua] were already trying to make hay even before the revelations, by offering asylum to Snowden, which, in some ways, has become somewhat of a red herring. Oddly enough, with the exception of Venezuela, those are not the countries where most of the alleged spying occurred. So it’s completely out of proportion to their level of legitimate victimization—with the exception of Morales’s plane getting grounded.

“[P]olitical leaders may use this for domestic political advantage, [but] it certainly doesn’t play as well as many think.”

Having said that, most citizens of these countries—and we see this in surveys—retain very positive views of the United States. As much as political leaders may use this for domestic political advantage, it certainly doesn’t play as well as many think. Popular opinions hinge much more on domestic issues. A classic example right now is that Rousseff’s popularity went from 57 percent to about 30 percent—that has to do with protests and unmet economic demands; that has nothing to do with spying. These reactions make for good political theater, but I’m not sure they make for good political campaigns.

Are there any concrete consequences for U.S.-Latin American relations? Rousseff recently said the leaks would not affect her planned October trip to Washington.

The practical implications will be minimal, in part because the United States has such a multifaceted relationship with these countries on everything from immigration to education, cultural exchanges, and economic ties. Those things reflect a very diverse relationship that goes far beyond the diplomatic government-to-government activities.

But there are two implications for U.S. relations in the region that are important. One is that the U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Latin America that will bring together economies from most of the Asia-Pacific region with Latin America, except for Colombia and Central America. When telecommunications comes down as one of the areas they are talking about, a lot of those negotiating parties are going to take a very close look at what’s in there and that there are safeguards that protect potential intervention and the flow of communication.

“The United States’ moral standing on being able to talk about issues like freedom of expression has taken a serious hit.”

The second is that the United States’ moral standing on being able to talk about issues like freedom of expression and access to information has taken a serious hit at a time when a number of countries are challenging domestic laws and regional norms concerning these very issues. That’s clearly why we see leaders like Correa, Maduro, Morales, [Nicaragua's Daniel] Ortega—none of whom are paragons of freedom of expression—suddenly become these champions of transparency. It’s ironic, and it also means that the ability of the United States, and in some cases U.S.-based organizations, to speak out in some of these cases is going to be a little more difficult.

On the asylum requests from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, it does appear Snowden is trying to get to Latin America. What are realistic possibilities for him as far as ending up there?

I may be proven wrong on this, but I still find it to be a very difficult practical matter that he can find his way to these countries. As much as these leaders have been saying out loud that he is welcome if he can get there, none of them are actually offering to lend their presidential jets to fly him down. For now, it just remains an empty gesture.

[Furthermore,] these governments are elected, however imperfectly. Let’s imagine Snowden has a good, healthy lifespan. I find it hard to believe that a chavista government is going to stay in power in Venezuela for fifty years—the same goes for the Morales and Ortega governments. So [asylum in these countries] may provide him a temporary respite, but it’s no permanent guarantee. Sadly, he is being manipulated for international public opinion by these leaders, and who knows when he himself could become a bargaining chip?

What can the United States can do to ease tensions in the coming weeks?

This is going to be resolved quietly and diplomatically, as a couple of leaders have said—[Colombian president Juan Manuel] Santos has said this; [Mexican president Enrique] Pena Nieto implied the same. Explanations and sharing of details as to the extent of the [surveillance] program and the like hopefully will be addressed. Rather than engage in megaphone diplomacy with the generally aggrieved countries, the United States is handling this quietly. On the other matters of asylum and other things, I think the United States is just letting these countries engage in their own megaphone diplomacy, and when the dust settles, their rantings will probably not have amounted to much.

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The Ongoing Domestic Debate.


Both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to justify controversial domestic surveillance programs amid pointed criticism from Congress and civil rights activists. Read the Backgrounder.

 www.cfr.org/intelligence/us-domes…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you commemorate the day that Venezuela declared its independence 202 years ago.

Venezuela and the United States have much in common. For example, revolutionary leader General Francisco de Miranda also played a part in our own struggle for independence, participating in the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. His contribution is forever memorialized in a monument that stands in the heart of Philadelphia, the original capital of the United States. When a devastating earthquake struck Venezuela in 1812 the United States sent the Venezuelan people the first humanitarian assistance it ever provided to a foreign country. These two examples demonstrate that Venezuela and the United States have shared ties of friendship and common values since the birth of our two nations, and the ties between our people endure.

I wish Venezuelans everywhere health, happiness, and hope on the anniversary of your independence.

——————————–

The Washington Post of July 5, 2013 tells us:

““As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live in the homeland” of independence leader Simon Bolivar and the late President Hugo Chavez without “persecution from the empire,” Maduro said, referring to the United States.

He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.

Maduro added that several other Latin American governments have also expressed their intention of taking a similar stance by offering asylum for the cause of “dignity.”

In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer “if circumstances allow it.” Ortega didn’t say what the right circumstances would be when he spoke during a speech in Managua.

He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s application for asylum and that it is studying the request.

“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Ortega said.

The offers came following a flap about the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe earlier this week amid reports that Snowden might have been aboard.

Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence worker, was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.’s general position that it wants Snowden back.

Maduro joined other leftist South American presidents Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to rally behind Morales and denounce the rerouting incident.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

But the drama surrounding the flight of Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that “they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside.”

He did not identify who “they” were and declined to say whether he had been in contact with the U.S. But he said that European countries’ decisions were based on the tip. France has since sent a letter of apology to the Bolivian government.”

———————————–

The bottom line is as reported by the Guardian:

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologize for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

———————————–

It seems like time has come for a US face-saving diplomacy before true craters open up at US borders – East, West, and South.

We have previously outlined a draft that we did not publish – but think now that the airplane flap justifies a US Presidential pardon to Snowden – just to get the issue of the World table – the damage was done and no sense for the US to dig itself deeper into the hole it created.

———————————-

US senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told little Ecuadoran that he would block the import of vegetables and flowers from Ecuador if Ecuador gives asylum to Edward Snowden. The cost to Ecuador would be one billion dollars in lost revenues. Will he also forbid trips from the US to the Galapagos?

Will he be consistent and close US imports of Venezuela oil? Of Latin oil in general?
Ecuador and Venezuela happen to be also members of OPEC which Bolivia is not. A policy of threats presents many interesting angles and possibilities.
Will there be ways to enlarge this with some reaction to what happens in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, some more grand-standing anyone?

———————————-

Thursday the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay joined Bolivia’s President Morales in Cochabamba, for a special meeting to address the diplomatic row.

At the end of the summit a statement was issued demanding answers from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. The United States was not mentioned in the statement.

“Europe broke all the rules of the game,” Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said shortly after arriving at Cochabamba airport. “We’re here to tell president Evo Morales that he can count on us. Whoever picks a fight with Bolivia, picks a fight with Venezuela.”

Maduro said an unnamed European government minister had told Venezuela the CIA was behind the incident.

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologise for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

Before the meeting, Morales said his ordeal was part of a US plot to intimidate him and other Latin American leaders.

He urged European nations to “free themselves” from the United States. “The United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region,” he said.

France sent an apology to the Bolivian government. But Morales said “apologies are not enough because the stance is that international treaties must be respected”.

Spain’s foreign affairs minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said his country did not bar Morales from landing in its territory.

Amid the tensions, the US embassy in La Paz cancelled Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Thursday. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Bolivian government sympathisers painted protest slogans on the doors of the American consulate.

Bolivia has said it will summon the French and Italian ambassadors and the Portuguese consul to demand explanations.

Brazil was represented by Marco Aurelio Garcia, President Dilma Rousseff’s top international adviser. The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Peru, who have strong ties to the US, were not attending.

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, said earlier on Thursday he supported Morales, but asked other leaders to remain cool and avoid an escalating dispute between Latin America and the European Union.

“We’re in solidarity with Evo Morales because what they did to him is unheard-of, but let’s not let this turn into a diplomatic crisis for Latin America and the EU,” Santos tweeted on Thursday.

—————————————

Our draft started: Thanks to the Egyptian military – their intervention got off the media front line the Snowden, Assage, Manning, WikiLeaks Warning Lighthouses – and replaced them with a renewed attention to the Islamic potential for acts of terror.

Furthermore – Latin America seems split between the go it alone States of the ALBA group – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, their new friends – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and now Nicaragua – and their opponents – the strong US connected, Chile, Colombia, Peru and the Southern European States Italy, France, Spain, Portugal that acted out on unsightly pressure from the White House, and perhaps even Austria – if it turns out to be true that they searched the Bolivian President’s plane. What about Mexico? Will they want to be seen as residing in the US vest-pocket?

Today it seems that just the Greens, the so called Pirates, and some other non-political fringe parties, are left in Europe to stand up for Democracy – The Reds, Blacks, Blues, Yellow, Orange, and Purple – all established political parties – have abandoned the Democracy ship because of the Transatlantic breeze from the Potomac. Europe seems anew like the Europe of the thirties with governments worried about their business-ties. Any infringements of democratic inalienable rights are not noted now, like they were not noted then. But this is totally misleading – just read the Guardian where all these stories started. This at a time the voters in quite a few European States do take position on this – and we would not be surprised if Austria as well took back its “Neutral Mantle” to declare that they too are ready to give refuge to Snowden. The coming days will tell.

————————————–

And as if nothing happened – a US hand to the people of Argentina as if they have now no elected government?:

Western Hemisphere: Argentina’s Independence Day

07/05/2013 02:31 PM EDT

Argentina’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 5, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Argentina as they celebrate their Independence Day this July 9.

The citizens of our two nations have a long history of productive and friendly relations, highlighted by educational and cultural exchanges and fruitful collaboration in the fields of science, technology, health, space, and energy.

The determination expressed by the patriots gathered at the Casa de Tucuman, to forge a free and independent nation, is a fundamental human longing, and one we share.

On this day, the United States wishes Argentina a happy celebration.

We look forward to working together to cultivate a strong bilateral relationship in the years to come.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

IPU E-BULLETIN  N°21, 28 March 2013

IPU Calls for Greater International Support for Syrian Refugees – In the second resolution on Syria at an IPU Assembly in 12 months, IPU has urged all parties in the country to end violence immediately. It has also called on international and regional parties to help find ways to end the conflict peacefully whilst safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as the security and human rights of its citizens. The resolution, which followed an emergency debate at the 128th IPU Assembly, focused particularly on the growing refugee crisis involving more than one million Syrians in neighbouring countries. IPU members have expressed concern that some countries may be forced to close their borders to new influxes of refugees. The organization is urging donor countries to fulfill pledges to provide US$ 1.5 billion to fund humanitarian assistance given only US$200 million has been received so far. In a separate development, the IPU Committee on International Humanitarian Law decided to send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan where many of the refugees have found shelter.

Parliaments Must Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians - Parliaments must do everything they can to safeguard the lives of civilians in conflict, paying particular attention to women and children. A resolution on peace and security adopted on the closing day of the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito calls on parliaments to ensure governments protect their people against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism. If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council on a case-by-case basis. The resolution also stresses the need for sustained peace-building assistance to post-conflict situations and urges parliamentarians to make sure their governments commit the necessary funds to the reconstruction of countries emerging from crisis.

Democratic Governance a Must-Have Goal for Post-2015 Development Targets – MPs from 121 countries participating at the 128th IPU Assembly have called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015. Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, they argued that true prosperity could not exist in any society without respect for the universal values of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Democratic governance should also underpin other future goals. The message came out loud and clear both in statements on the general theme of the Assembly “From unrelenting growth to purposeful development “Buen Vivir”: New Approaches, New Solutions, and from a survey carried out among MPs on the issue. IPU’s membership declared it was more important than ever for parliaments to assert their legitimate place in the decision-making process at national and international levels and for parliaments to be strengthened across the world to allow greater oversight and legislative authority.

Parliaments Urged to Take Tougher Action on Sexual Violence – Parliaments across the world have been urged to take a much tougher approach to sexual violence, in particular to rape. In a statement at the closing session of the 128th Assembly, Fernando Cordero, the President of the Assembly, expressed deep concern at the widespread crime with rape cases increasingly making the headlines in recent months. He called upon parliaments to scrutinize existing laws to ensure tougher punishment for sexual violence crimes, the enforcement of laws, the protection of victims as well as the provision of adequate resources to address the issue. Highlighting a common practice of punishing victims, President Cordero demanded the training of law enforcers so that the response to rape and other forms of sexual violence does not punish or stigmatize women.

Too Many MPs Under Attack and in Danger the World Over - Too many MPs in the world are being targeted, intimidated and harassed as an attack on democracy itself, according to IPU. Countries such as Afghanistan and Maldives are witnessing concerted direct violence against parliamentarians and at times also their families. As the 128th IPU Assembly concluded in Quito, Ecuador, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians expressed concern at the recent suicide bombing attack on the family of the Speaker of the Lower House of parliament in Afghanistan. As part of a series of resolutions on cases on the human rights abuses of MPs around the world, IPU also voiced serious concern at the level of confrontation between the government and parliament of Maldives. The Indian Ocean Island nation has been in political crisis since February 2012. Significant intimidation and harassment of MPs has led to the IPU Committee following 21 cases of human rights abuses of parliamentarians, including that of Afrasheem Ali who was assassinated last October.  IPU has stated its deep concern that despite evidence, no-one has been held accountable for attacks on the MPs and at allegations that MPs may no longer be receiving the security protection they need. The IPU Committee examined the cases of 147 MPs in 24 countries during its latest session, pronouncing resolutions on cases involving 86 MPs in 17 countries.

Colombian Prosecutors committed to resolving murders of Patriotic Union MPs - A mission by IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Colombia this month witnessed new efforts to shed light on the cases of 6 members of parliament from the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union) murdered between 1986 and 1994, as well as the death threats which forced fellow MP Hernán Motta into exile in October 1997. Colombia’s Chief Prosecutor and the Attorney General revealed the cases are now a priority with new methodology for gathering evidence developed. The Committee also learnt that the murder of one of the six Patriotic Union MPs, Manuel Cepeda, has been declared a crime against humanity in Colombia. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded in May 2010 that the Colombian State bore responsibility for his murder. The IPU Committee has asked for detailed information from the Colombian authorities as to the exact steps being taken to find the perpetrators of all the crimes. It has called upon members of Congress to do their utmost to help in pursuing the cases.

IPU and Parliaments Should Play Pivotal Role in Advocating Fair Trade – Parliamentarians and IPU are being urged to take the lead in advocating fair trade as a means of ensuring sustainable development. A resolution submitted by the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade at the 128th IPU Assembly, appeals to governments and MPs to support fair trade and to include it as an integral component of post-2015 sustainable development goals. In addition, it says parliaments and governments should explore more innovative, open and transparent financing mechanisms to allow for more effective funding of fair-trade projects. The Committee also appeals to governments to do more to combat corruption and to join forces in the fight against tax evasion, crucial to achieving increases in domestic revenue.

Record Number of Women MPs Attend 128th IPU Assembly – A record number of women MPs attended the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, breaking the 200 mark for the first time ever. The 210 women MPs at the Assembly represented 33 per cent of all MPs attending. It was the first time the proportion of women MPs had been as high. The Quito gathering also witnessed a growing trend of better balanced delegations in terms of gender representation.  The trend in women’s representation at IPU assemblies echoed global parliamentary figures which in 2012 saw the highest percentage of women MPs in national parliaments. For the first time, the global average of women MPs broke the 20 per cent to reach 20.3 per cent. The Quito gathering also marked the first time women parliamentarians from Saudi Arabia participated at an IPU event with two newly-appointed women representatives from the Shura Council.

Using Social Media to Enhance Citizen Engagement and Democracy – Delegates to IPU’s 128th Assembly have adopted a resolution that calls on parliaments to both use social media to better inform and engage with their citizens but also to protect the right to freedom of expression on and off-line. The resolution also underscored that a free, open and accessible internet is both a fundamental human right and a tool for citizen engagement. Parliamentarians also needed to take on the responsibility for ensuring citizens’ access to free and secure online communications. The resolution followed IPU’s release of its first ever social media guidelines for MPs and parliamentary staff. Available freely online, it aims to encourage the more widespread and effective use of social media by parliaments and politicians, as well as provide guidance to those responsible for managing social media channels. The guidelines help to define the scope and purpose of social media for parliaments whilst also providing a benchmark for good practice in citizen engagement. The World e-Parliament Report identified that by the end of 2012, a third of all parliaments were already using social media with another third planning to.

 

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INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION

NEWS RELEASE

Intensify Efforts to Protect Civilians in Conflict Including Syria, Urges IPU

Quito/Geneva 27 March 2013 – The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a set of actions enforcing the responsibility to protect civilian lives during conflict on the closing day of its 128th Assembly in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.

Adopting resolutions on the Syrian refugee crisis and on the role of parliaments in safeguarding civilian lives, the IPU Assembly urged parliaments to ensure governments protected their people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism.

If national authorities fail to safeguard their population, then collective action should be applied in a timely and decisive manner through the Security Council on a case-by- case basis.   

Particular focus was put on the need for laws and measures to protect women and children, prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for survivors in conflict.

Parliaments should also ensure they support governments in peace-building efforts through the allocation of necessary funds.

In the second resolution on the conflict in Syria in 12 months, IPU called for an immediate end to the violence there. Concerned by the displacement crisis which has left more than one million Syrian refugees seeking shelter and protection in neighbouring countries and stretching resources and capacity there, the Organization is urging donor countries to fulfil pledges to provide US$1.5 billion for humanitarian aid. So far, only $US200 million has so far been received.

IPU’s Committee on International Humanitarian Law in session during the 128th Assembly will send an urgent assessment mission to Jordan which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.

The Quito Assembly, which brought together more than 1,250 delegates, including nearly 630 MPs from 121 countries, also called for a radically new way of tackling economic growth and sustainable development as the world begins work on an agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

Aiming for human well-being, IPU members highlighted the need for more attention to be paid to the nature of growth, the distribution of its benefits, prioritizing action on youth unemployment and job creation, better management of the world’s resources and eradicating gender inequalities once and for all.

As a result, IPU has called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in a new set of sustainable development targets post 2015.

Defining participation, transparency and accountability as the core of democratic governance, the Organization’s membership declared that it was more important than ever for parliaments to be strengthened in their oversight and legislative functions and to assert their place in decision-making processes at national and international levels.

The 128th IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on the promotion of fair trade and innovative mechanisms for sustainable development and on the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy.  

Picture Editors can access photos from the Assembly from:

www.flickr.com/uip128ecuador

For further information, please contact:

IPU Press Office

Jemini Pandya, Tel: + 593 99 763 9725 or + 41 79 217 3374 or Email: jep@ipu.org

Leonie Guguen, Email: lg@ipu.org

Ecuadoran Parliament Press Office

Julia Ortega, Tel: +593 99 811 3863 or Email: julia.ortega@asambleanacional.gob.ec

Carolina Granda, Tel: +593 998 118 923 or Email: granda.carolina@gmail.com

UNION INTERPARLEMENTAIRE

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

L’UIP demande que l’on protège davantage les civils pris dans les conflits, notamment en Syrie

Quito/Genève, 27 mars 2013 – A la clôture de sa 128ème Assemblée, qui s’est tenue à Quito, capitale de l’Equateur, l’Union interparlementaire (UIP) a appelé à une série de mesures destinées à faire respecter la responsabilité de protéger la vie des civils pendant les conflits.

L’Assemblée de l’UIP, qui a adopté des résolutions au sujet de la crise des réfugiés syriens et du rôle des parlements dans la protection des civils, demande instamment aux parlements de veiller à ce que leur gouvernement protège la population contre le génocide, le nettoyage ethnique, les crimes de guerre et les crimes contre l’humanité, en adoptant des lois, en ratifiant le Statut de Rome de la Cour pénale internationale et en contrôlant l’action menée par le gouvernement pour combattre le terrorisme.

L’Assemblée dit aussi que si les autorités nationales manquent à leur obligation de protéger leur population, la communauté internationale se doit  d’engager en temps voulu une action collective résolue, par le truchement du Conseil de sécurité et, ce, au cas par cas.

L’Assemblée insiste en particulier sur le fait qu’il faut des lois et des mesures pour protéger les femmes et les enfants, prévenir et criminaliser la violence sexuelle et assurer réparation aux victimes des conflits.

Elle appelle en outre les parlements à accompagner les gouvernements dans leurs efforts de consolidation de la paix, en votant les crédits nécessaires.

Par ailleurs, dans sa deuxième résolution en 12 mois sur le conflit syrien, l’UIP appelle à une cessation immédiate de la violence dans ce pays. Préoccupée par les déplacements massifs qui ont fait plus d’un million de réfugiés cherchant asile et protection dans les pays voisins et mettant à rude épreuve les moyens disponibles, l’Organisation engage les pays donateurs à tenir leurs engagements et à fournir 1,5 milliard de dollars E.-U. pour financer l’aide humanitaire. A ce jour, seuls 200 millions de dollars ont été reçus.

Le Comité de l’UIP chargé de promouvoir le respect du droit international humanitaire, qui s’est réuni à l’occasion de la 128ème Assemblée, va dépêcher d’urgence une mission d’évaluation de la situation en Jordanie, où se trouvent actuellement un grand nombre de réfugiés.

L’Assemblée de Quito, à laquelle ont participé plus de 1 250 délégués, dont près de 630 parlementaires de 121 pays, souhaite également que l’on trouve une toute nouvelle façon d’envisager la croissance économique et le développement durable, alors que la communauté internationale s’attèle à l’élaboration d’un programme destiné à succéder aux Objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement.

Ayant à l’esprit le bien-être de l’humanité, les Membres de l’UIP ont insisté sur la nécessité de se soucier davantage de la nature de la croissance, de la répartition de ses bienfaits, de donner la priorité à la création d’emplois et à l’emploi des jeunes, de mieux administrer les ressources de la planète et de mettre fin une bonne fois pour toutes aux inégalités entre hommes et femmes.

Forte de ces convictions, l’UIP décidé de demander que la gouvernance démocratique soit intégrée, comme un objectif à part entière, dans le nouveau programme de développement durable pour l’après-2015.

Les Membres de l’UIP, pour qui la participation, la transparence et la reddition de comptes sont les piliers de la gouvernance démocratique, ont déclaré qu’il était plus important que jamais de renforcer les fonctions législative et de contrôle des parlement et d’associer davantage les législateurs aux processus de prise de décision aux échelons national et international.

La 128ème Assemblée de l’UIP a également adopté des résolutions sur la promotion du commerce équitable et de mécanismes novateurs de développement durable, ainsi que sur l’utilisation des médias sociaux pour accroître la participation des citoyens et renforcer la démocratie.

Les secrétaires de rédaction iconographie peuvent accéder aux photos de l’Assemblée sur :

www.flickr.com/uip128ecuador

Pour plus ample information, prière de contacter :

Service presse de l’UIP

Jemini Pandya, Tél. : + 593 99 763 9725 or + 41 79 217 3374 ou Courriel : jep@ipu.org

Leonie Guguen, Courriel : lg@ipu.org

Service de presse du Parlement équatorien

Julia Ortega, Tél. : +593 99 811 3863 ou Courriel : julia.ortega@asambleanacional.gob.ec

Carolina Granda, Tél. : +593 998 118 923 ou Courriel : granda.carolina@gmail.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Amazon Farmers Seize Chevron Assets.

SustainableBusiness.com News October 17, 2012.

In a huge success for Amazon farmers that have been suing Chevron for 18 years, an Ecuadorian court ruled they can seize $200 million in assets from the oil company.

That includes $96.3 million the Ecuador government owes Chevron, money held in Ecuadorean bank accounts by Chevron, and licensing fees generated by the use of the company’s trademarks in the country, reports Reuters.

Chevron has been struggling to get out of paying $19 billion in damages to Ecuadorean villagers for polluting rivers with 16 billion gallons of oil sludge from 1964-1990.

This is a critically important case – the first time an indigenous community has prevailed against a multinational corporation. Oil companies are, of course, keeping close watch on this case as it provides an important precedent for communities to fight their pollution.

Shell has a similar case against it in Nigeria.

The company even took it to the US Supreme court, which last week rejected Chevron’s attempt to overturn the $19 billion judgment against it.


The suit was originally brought against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001). In February 2011, an Ecuadorean judge imposed damages for $8.6 billion – the fine has more than doubled since then because Chevron has not made the public apology the court required.

Instead, the company filed an appeal in New York to block the judgment, saying it was illegal and unenforceable under the state’s law – and a federal judge took its side in March 2011.

But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned that decision, noting US courts can’t interfere with courts from other countries.
So Chevron appealed again – this time to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of that appeal opened the door for this week’s ruling, issued in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio.


“This is a huge first step for the rainforest villagers on the road to collecting the entire $19 billion judgment,” Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the communities, told Reuters.

Chevron is fighting back again, charging racketeering against New York attorney Steven Donziger, a group of Ecuadoreans and the environmental groups that helped win the original judgment against it.

It is also bringing the matter to an international trade arbitration panel which is scheduled to begin hearings on the dispute in November, reports Reuters.

After the original judgment, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Program signed a historic deal to leave an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil untapped beneath Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve since 1989.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela Votes…and Latin America Catches a Cold.

By Estrella Gutiérrez

CARACAS, Oct 4 2012 (IPS) – Sunday’s elections in Venezuela will determine whether the era of President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution will continue or come to an end. The result will have an impact not only on this country but on the rest of Latin America.

In the first decade of this century, Latin America saw “a nontraumatic epochal change, sometimes manifested as constituent assemblies (to rewrite a constitution), which sought to respond to the demands of the majority and bring about political change. Chávez is its most radical expression,” said Manuel Felipe Sierra, an analyst from the traditional left and a critic of the Venezuelan president.

“This trend, which Chávez claims to have authored although it has roots and leadership in each country, has already passed, and most governments have taken a more conventional democratic route with left-wing overtones,” he told IPS.

In the campaign, Capriles said that if elected, he would maintain membership of all the blocs, including ALBA.

However, he declared that there would be an end to the “freebies” and not a single barrel of oil would leave Venezuela for free, in a country where oil now represents 93 percent of exports, compared to 70 percent in 1998. He was referring to the agreements with countries in the region for oil and gas sales at preferential prices and on easy payment terms.

Asked who would lose the most in the region if Chávez lost, the analysts who spoke to IPS agreed that the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments would be most affected, because they are the most dependent on Venezuelan oil and other resources. “Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador would not be happy, either,” said Shifter.

Capriles promised to maintain good relations with Cuba, and said he would seek a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro after he meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, his priority, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

But he said the current agreements, under which Havana receives between three billion and four billion dollars a year, must be revised.

Chávez, for his part, insists that if he is ousted from the presidency, “darkness will return to Latin American society” and “the empire (the U.S.) will win.”

In Sierra’s view, “Venezuela has a specific weight in the region, as the only country that is structurally a Latin American oil power, even though others also have oil, and it must recover that role and restore it to normal, whatever happens on Sunday.”

Bolivia and Ecuador are other examples of this current, which has as its political integration mechanism the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), led by Venezuela and made up of eight Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba and Nicaragua.

But the regional reform movement has another major reference point, less ideological and radical: the process led by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whose programme was based on economic growth with social inclusion and a strengthening of democracy.

Both self-described left-wing and right-wing governments have expressed their support for the Brazilian model, including Venezuela’s opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who declares himself an “admirer and imitator” of Lula.

Capriles, supported by a variegated mix of 29 groups ranging from right to left, points as proof to the Zero Hunger plan he implemented as governor of the northwestern state of Miranda, modelled on Brazil’s anti-hunger strategy.

Most of the latest polls tip Chávez as the favourite to be re-elected for a third time. But growing support for his rival has made the election result uncertain.

Chávez’s style of diplomacy in Latin America has been one of confrontation with right-wing presidents, which polarised countries, governments and summits ever since he took power in February 1999, said experts consulted by IPS, including several close to the president.

“The export of the Bolivarian model, supported by the abusive use of Venezuela’s oil wealth, as well as Chávez´s style, are in decline, whatever happens on Sunday,” said Sierra.

“Furthermore, there is ‘Chávez fatigue’ in the region because of the behaviours and manners that stress even his allies, and that ceased to be useful for the collective interest,” he said.

But Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), said that if Chávez exits the stage, “it would threaten Latin American independence,” especially from the United States, which Chávez refers to as “the empire.”

Chaderton said Venezuela had created in the region “a diversity of dependences, that make us more independent of others and more interdependent among ourselves.”

“In Latin America we created oxygen valves that help us breathe more freely, and that would close off” if Chávez loses, he said.

“These are not just any elections, for Venezuela or for the continent, because of the ideological primacy and polarisation promoted by Chávez, and because if he loses the elections it would confirm the demise of the left-wing neo-populist experiment he was trying to export,” said Teresa Romero, an expert in international relations.

In Romero’s view, even if Chávez is re-elected, “the regional climate has shifted towards the centre,” and within it “Brazil has won the leadership role, with progressive positions that are less strident and more efficient.”

Michael Shifter, the head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, said if Chávez left the government it would have “an enormous effect on the regional political scenario, because he has been the most aggressive and polarising voice in the hemisphere over the last decade.”

If change comes to Venezuela, “ideological conflicts will not disappear, but they will be less acute and better channeled,” he told IPS. In his view, Capriles would maintain normal relations with left-wing governments like those of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, “but not, as the phrase went in the 1990s, such carnal relationships.”

In addition to ALBA, the Chávez government promoted the foundation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), made up of the region’s 12 countries, and the oil aid organisation Petrocaribe. It also helped create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an alternative to the OAS, which it considers to be dominated by Washington.

In August the government began a process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which hands down binding rulings on human rights violations committed by states. The only precedent for withdrawal from the OAS human rights court was that of Peru, 20 years ago, during the regime of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Capriles announced that, if he were elected, one of his first steps would be to reverse the process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court. He also said Venezuela would rejoin the Andean Community, the regional bloc that this country belonged to since the 1960s, which the Chávez administration pulled out of in 2011. It is currently made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Chávez’s efforts in the past six years were directed towards Venezuela becoming a full member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, which he finally achieved in June, after Paraguay’s temporary suspension from the group, made up also of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

“These are changes of alliances based on political and ideological foundations, not on economic reasoning or geographical location,” Sierra said.

=========================

And from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) backgrounder:

Stakes Are High for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

The October 7 presidential election between Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles Radonski holds significant implications for the direction of the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign policy.       Read the Backgrounder »

===========================


Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

How Hugo Chávez Became Irrelevant

By FRANCISCO TORO
Published: October 5, 2012

Caracas, Venezuela

Jonathan Bartlett

AS Hugo Chávez, the icon of Latin America’s left, struggles to hang on to his job, it’s tempting to read tomorrow’s closely contested election in Venezuela as a possible signal of the region’s return to the right. That would be a mistake, because the question that’s been roiling Latin America for a dozen years isn’t “left or right?” but “which left?”

Outsiders have often interpreted Latin America’s swing to the left over the last dozen years as a movement of leaders marching in ideological lock step. But within the region, the fault lines have always been clear.

Radical revolutionary regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined Cuba, the granddaddy of the far left, in a bloc determined to confront the capitalist world, even if that meant increasingly authoritarian government.

A more moderate set of leaders in Brazil, Uruguay and Guatemala put forth an alternative: reducing poverty through major social reforms without turning their backs on democratic institutions or private property rights.

As Fidel Castro’s favorite son, Mr. Chávez has always been the leader of the radical wing. And Brazil’s size and economic power made it the natural leader of the reformist wing.

Outwardly, the two camps have been at pains to deny that any divisions exist. There have been many pious words of solidarity and lots of regional integration accords. But behind closed doors, each side is often viciously dismissive of the other, with Chávez supporters seeing the Brazilians as weak-kneed appeasers of the bourgeoisie while the Brazilians sneer at Mr. Chávez’s outdated radicalism and chronic incompetence.

As recently as five or six years ago, there was a real ideological contest. A wildly unpopular American president prone to military adventurism helped Mr. Chávez rally the continent against Washington. One country after the next joined the radical axis. First Bolivia, then Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador, joined a growing roll call of radicals in 2005 and 2006.

Now the political landscape is almost entirely transformed. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory badly undermined the radicals’ ability to rally opposition to gringo imperialism. Meanwhile, the alternative was becoming increasingly attractive.

Brazil’s remarkable success in reducing poverty speaks for itself. Building on a foundation of macroeconomic stability and stable democratic institutions, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, oversaw the most remarkable period of social mobility in Latin America’s living memory.

As millions of Brazilians rose into the middle class, Mr. Chávez’s autocratic excesses came to look unnecessary and inexcusable to Venezuelans. Mr. da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have shown that a country does not need to stack the courts, purge the army and politicize the central bank to fight poverty. Brazil proves that point, quietly, day in and day out.

It isn’t just democratic institutions that have suffered from Mr. Chávez’s radicalism; it’s the economy, too. Venezuela’s traditional dependence on oil exports has deepened, with 96 percent of export revenue now coming from the oil industry, up from 67 percent just before Mr. Chávez took office. Nationalized steel mills produce a fraction of the steel they’re designed for, forcing the state to import the difference. And nationalized electric utilities plunge most of the country into darkness several times a week. The contrast with Brazil’s high-tech, entrepreneurial, export-oriented economy couldn’t be more stark.

For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.

With oversight institutions neutered, the president now runs the country as a personal fief: expropriating businesses on a whim and deciding who goes to jail. Judges who rule against the government’s wishes are routinely fired, and one has even been jailed. Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative.

And the region has noticed. The key moment came in April 2011, when Ollanta Humala won the Peruvian presidency. Long seen as the most radical of Latin America’s new breed of leaders, Mr. Humala had run on a Chávez-style platform in 2006 and lost. By last year, he’d seen the way the wind was blowing and remade himself into a Brazilian-style moderate, won and proceeded to govern — so far, successfully — in the Brazilian mold.

Now, in a final indignity, Mr. Chávez is facing a tight re-election race against Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 40-year-old progressive state governor who extols the virtues of the Brazilian model.

Although Mr. Chávez’s government has done its best to paint a caricature of Mr. Capriles as an old-style right-wing oligarch, he is unmistakably within the Brazilian center-left mold: Mr. Capriles pitches himself as an ambitious but pragmatic social reformer committed to ending the Chávez era’s authoritarian excesses.

The rest of Latin America has already been through the ideological battle in which Venezuela remains mired. By and large, other nations have made their choices. The real question in this election is whether Venezuela will join the hemispheric consensus now, or later.

Francisco Toro is a journalist, political scientist and blogger.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In this release…

Source: Margaret Scott


CAFTA-DR Governments in Contrast to Small-Scale Owners Parcel Engines of Development

[THE CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT THAT INCLUDES THE US AND THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC OF THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS.]

After 8 years of free trade agreement between Central America and the United States, CAFTA-DR has brought increased dependency on international markets for the region. Whereas this development decision was potentially positive for the countries’ economy, it has hindered food security in the region, representing a huge risk to peasant’s lives.

This article was prepared by Mar Guinot Aguado, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

To read full article, click here.

parts of it say:

Historically dependent on their neighbor to the North as the engine for development, the Central American countries agreed to fully open their markets to the United States in the late 2000s. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), initiated in 2002 between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and the United States, strove to liberalize Central American markets in an effort to increase investments and create economic opportunities throughout the region. The neoliberal policy was aimed at eliminating trade barriers and tariffs on guaranteed agricultural and manufactured goods, investments, and services, which traditionally have led to misery for vulnerable peasants in the agreement’s less developed countries. Central America is the third largest U.S. export market in existence, and up to now the neoliberal ideals imposed by the agreement have mainly benefited large corporations that have migrated to the region. The decision of these governments to establish a free market has hampered the Central American agricultural sector and has decreased food security. This process intensifies the area’s dependency on volatile international markets in a region already threatened by structural malnutrition.

Free-trade advocates had argued that CAFTA-DR would decrease poverty in rural areas and accelerate the development of Central America, substantially benefiting consumers by decreasing prices of consumer products and improving their purchasing power. But years after its implementation, CAFTA-DR has re-structured the countries’ economies by flooding their markets with subsidized grains coming from the Unites States. In fact, between 1995 and 2011, the U.S. government spent $277.3 billion USD in agricultural subsidies, exporting many of these products to Central America.[6] Since the free-trade agreement, Central American countries and the Dominican Republic have been transformed into net food importers, with their governments unable to dedicate as much investment to the agricultural sector. As a result of the international economic integration with trade liberalization, the region has dramatically increased its dependency on imports supplemented by diminishing amounts of aid, and thus has been exposed to the volatility of commodity prices. Yet, low food prices in Central America have not effectively mitigated hunger.

According to the 2008 State of the Region Report, “An increase of 15 percent in the price of food could mean 2.5 million more people in extreme poverty, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras.” The report shows “a model of rising imports (wheat, rice and corn went up to about 30 percent in available food between 1990-2003) with tripled prices for wheat and doubled prices for corn and rice (2008-2009),” which not only “leads to profits for the companies that import the goods, but growing malnutrition, especially among the region’s rural and indigenous poor.”[7] For example, El Salvador imports 79 percent of its rice and 43 percent of its corn. Similarly, Costa Rica imports 77 percent of its beans while Guatemala imports 100 percent of its wheat and 70 percent of its rice.[8] Food prices have risen internationally; wheat prices have grown 152 percent and maize prices have grown 122 percent between 2006 and 2008.[9] This price inflation, therefore, has negatively affected poor people in the region, who suffer from a huge dependency on agricultural imports promulgated by CAFTA-DR.

Instead of growing yields destined for local consumption, the trade agreement has led to a decrease in the diversification of production and a concentration on exportable crops in Central America. From the 1990s to 2005, local food production—such as rice, beans, and corn—shrank by 50 percent.[10] Prior to the agreement, 75 percent of Central American exports had free access to the U.S. market through bilateral agreements. This slashed CAFTA-DR’s developmental benefits for Central America.[11] Moreover, the huge size differences between the United States’ and the other countries’ markets seriously hindered Central America in seeking an equal negotiation.

Developed countries are promoting the cultivation of biofuel crops, such as palm oil in Guatemala, as a sustainable development project strategy. Yet, this expansion deepens food insecurity in this afflicted region by weakening rural sustainability.

According to USA Rice Federation Chairman Lee Adams, echoing the upbeat attitude of other unalloyed boosters, “support for CAFTA-DR means more jobs for rural America, and greater stability for U.S. agriculture.”[18] Their argument is that CAFTA-DR has positively impacted agriculture in the U.S., increasing its exports to the region by 84 percent from 2005 to 2011, which represented $4.2 billion USD in 2010.[19] For the United States, removing agricultural barriers to this market has thus created a beneficial solution to its overproduction of farming goods. In that sense, the trade agreement is destroying any possibility of balanced regional integration within a Central American common market. Yet, the Central American governments continue to push toward a developmental model through free trade agreements, signing the new Association Agreement with the European Union in June 2012.[20] Similar to CAFTA-DR, this economic integration allows at least some kind of cooperation within Central America. While other trade alternatives exist such as ALBA, based on a more cooperative perspective, Central American governments chose the CAFTA-DR approach for their countries, which appears to only support narrow development.

The neoliberal policies implemented in the region through the CAFTA-DR agreement have negatively impacted these less developed countries. Subsidized production from the U.S. and superficially sustainable biofuel projects from developed countries have repeatedly devastated rural economies

———————————————————————

Ecuador’s Correa Sounds The Bugle

Senior Research Fellow Sean Burges examines the political ramifications of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s decision to grant Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum. In this piece, Burges examines how Correa is expanding upon his tradition of a reformist populist agenda that confronts the established political orders of more Westernized countries. As the media focus on Assange, Correa is using the distraction to further implement his domestic agenda while using the splash tiny Ecuador has caused to solidify his leftist credentials.

This article was prepared by Sean Burges, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

To read full article, that explains the Correa Ecuador stand vis-a-vis the UK and the US please click here.

Some excerpts are:

The situation with respect to the US is not much different from the way Correa views the UK which has its entanglement with Latin America because of the Malvinas Islands. Correa can bank on Latin support versus the UK – this includes the strong Brazil. Relations with Washington remain stable despite sustained provocations. In 2009 Correa delivered a major blow to US drug interdiction policy by refusing to renew the Pentagon’s lease on the Manta airbase in southern Ecuador. This was followed last year with the expulsion of the US ambassador, ironically because of the material released in the WikiLeaks Cablegate.

These provocations and a habitually anti-imperialist rhetoric from Correa had little impact on trade with the US. From 2005 to last year, exports to the US grew by 20.5 per cent. More importantly for Correa’s strategic thinking, the US share of Ecuador’s exports fell from 49.7 per cent to 34.6 per cent, and this trade was concentrated in the fish, fruit and oil that have a ready Chinese market.

The foreign policy and economic cost of provoking Britain and US is thus remarkably low for Correa, allowing him to use Assange to further burnish his anti-imperialist credentials among his domestic political supporters. For Correa, maintaining credibility as a forceful voice against imperialism and a staunch rhetorical critic of the US is a domestic political necessity. His entire agenda is directed towards transforming the political and social structure of Ecuador, which automatically threatens the interests of the established political and economic elite.

Given that the three presidents elected before Correa were belted from office by massive indigenous popular protests or congressional conspiracy, it is hard to argue that there was not a need for constitutional reform in Ecuador. At issue were the twin problems of the near impossibility of electing a congress that would co-operate with the president and the systemic exclusion of the country’s indigenous peoples (25 per cent of the population) and the mixed-heritage mestizos (65 per cent) from real political participation.

Correa wasted little time in pursuing reform after his 2006 election. To facilitate inclusion and break gridlock, Correa called a constitutional convention in 2007, which duly drafted a new magna carta for Ecuador. In 2008, the document was put to a national referendum and approved by 64 per cent of the population as the country’s 20thconstitution. The established political and economic elite is not happy and is doing all it can to undermine Correa. Although poverty rates in Ecuador have dropped from 37.6 per cent to 28.6 per cent over the past five years, the political reality is that it is very easy to spin a quarter of the population remaining impoverished as a cataclysmic failure of governmental policy.



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Latin America seemingly buckles under pressure from outside and inside the continent.

Seemingly – Mercosur is not growing larger as expected. It is made up by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. A reaction t this, under leadership of Brazil and Argentina, Mercosur will increase tariff on imports from non-Mercosur States.

Closer allies of the US – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, are eying the Pacific region, and tend to get closer business relations with the other side of the Pacific under a Pacific Alliance with US as main pivot. Chile seems to be interested to lead this group so there is less of a Brazil – Mexico competition in Latin America.

The left leaning ALBA States include Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and some of the Caribbean Islands, while the Caribbean Island States still have their CARICOM that looks to Mexico.

This posting comes about because of our expectation that June 2012 will prove to be an important month for Latin America, considering the Mexican hosts of the G-20, and the Brazilian hosts of RIO+20 – both meetings with potential high power influence  on global economic structure at least in these next few years. Will the US be helpful, or harmful, to the creation of a more united Latin America?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

FINALLY, ATTENTION IS FOCUSED ALSO ON LOS CABOS – THE PLACE WHERE ALL HEADS OF STATES WITH POWER, AND SUFFERING SMALL ISLAND STATES – mainly from the CARICOM  - WILL BE ON THE EVE OF THE OPENING OF THE RIO CONFERENCE. COULD THEY TAKE A DECISION IN MEXICO AND BRING THAT DECISION TO RIO?

From: Will Bates - 350.org organizers@350.org            Dear Friends,


This is huge. - Two weeks ago we joined a diverse coalition to launch an all-out offensive to end fossil fuel subsidies, and we weren’t quite sure how it would turn out. Well, we’ve currently got 958,422 signatures on our combined global petition — almost a million people strong!

Will you help us get to a million by the end of the week? Sign on here: www.350.org

Once we get a million signatures, we’ll move on to phase two: a surround-sound campaign to put the pressure on world leaders at the G20 Summit in Mexico and at the “Rio+20 Earth Summit” coming up in Brazil.

We’ll be honest: we won’t win the campaign to end fossil fuel subsidies with a petition alone — and we won’t be able to wrap this up by the end of the Rio Earth Summit. But being a million strong is a powerful starting point, and our massive numbers will send an unignorable message to world leaders.

The truth is that ending these subsidies will take an ongoing and escalating campaign — which is why we’re digging deep on multiple fronts. As I type this, 350.org staff and volunteers are putting together a cutting-edge social media plan, planning a series of hard-hitting actions in countries around the world, and working on game-changing research that will expose just how massive the issue of subsidies is.

Our work on subsidies will continue in the weeks and months ahead — but with the global summits in Mexico and Rio happening in just a few weeks, we have a unique moment to shine a light on a topic that all too often gets hidden and ignored. And we can’t ignore it any longer — the issue of subsidies is just too important. New research shows that getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies would lead to massive reductions in the emissions that are super-heating our planet — and could help level the economic playing field and trigger a clean energy revolution around the world.

One more thing: we’re saving June 18 for something special. It’ll be the day when we’ll deliver our collective petition to world leaders, but also a day where we’ll try something a bit different — and a day to take our message to the halls of power in a brand new way.

We’ll keep you posted on the next steps, but for now please help us reach the 1 million mark before the week is up: www.350.org

Onwards,

Will Bates for the 350.org Team


Articles and Info

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies ‘could provide half of global carbon target’ |The Guardian go.350.org


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.

By , Published The Washington Post: May 25, 2012.

LOMA LA LATA, Argentina — In a desertlike stretch of scrub grass and red buttes, oil companies are punching holes in the ground in search of what might be one of the biggest recent discoveries in the Americas: enough gas and oil to make a country known for beef and the tango an important energy player.

The environment is challenging, with resources trapped deep in shale rock. But technological breakthroughs coupled with a feverish quest for the next major find are unlocking the door to oil and natural gas riches here and in several other countries in the Americas not traditionally known as energy producers

Graphic

A tectonic shift in oil supply

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A tectonic shift in oil supply

That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.

Since 2006, exports to the United States have fallen from all but one major member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the net decline adding up to nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Canada, Brazil and Colombia have increased exports to the United States by 700,000 barrels daily in that time and now provide nearly 3.4 million barrels a day.

Six Persian Gulf suppliers provide just 22 percent of all U.S. imports, the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month. The United States’ neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, meanwhile, provide more than half — a figure that has held steady for years because, as production has fallen in the oil powers of Venezuela and Mexico, it has gone up elsewhere.

Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Colombia and far off the coast of Brazil, under thick salt beds thousands of feet below the surface.

A host of new discoveries or rosy prospects for large deposits also has energy companies drilling in the Chukchi Sea inside the Arctic Circle, deep in the Amazon, along a potentially huge field off South America’s northeast shoulder, and in the roiling waters around the Falkland Islands.

“A range of big possibilities for oil are opening up,” said Juan Carlos Montiel, as he directed a team from the state-controlled company YPF to drill while a whipping wind brought an autumn chill to the potentially lucrative fields here outside Añelo. “With the exploration that is being carried out, I think we will really increase the production of gas and oil.”

Because oil is a widely traded commodity, analysts say the upsurge in production in the Americas does not mean the United States will be immune to price shocks. If Iran were to close off the Strait of Hormuz, stopping tanker traffic from Middle East suppliers, a price shock wave would be felt worldwide.

But the new dynamics for the United States — an increasingly intertwined energy relationship with Canada and more reliance on Brazil — mean U.S. energy supplies are more assured than before, even if oil from an important Persian Gulf supplier is temporarily halted.

The fracking ‘revolution’

Perhaps the biggest development in the worldwide realignment is how the United States went from importing 60 percent of its liquid fuels in 2005 to 45 percent last year. The economic downturn in the United States, improvements in automobile efficiency and an increasing reliance on biofuels all played a role.

But a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing. By blasting water, chemicals and tiny artificial beads at high pressure into tight rock formations to make them porous, workers have increased oil production in North Dakota from a few thousand barrels a day a decade ago to nearly half a million barrels today.

Conservative estimates are that oil and natural gas produced through “fracking,” as the process is better known, could amount to 3 million barrels a day by 2020.

“We have a revolution here,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation in New York. “In 47 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.”

All of this has happened as exports from Mexico and Venezuela have fallen in recent years, a trend analysts attribute to mismanagement and lack of investment at the state-owned oil industries in those countries. Even so, there is a possibility that new governments in Mexico and Venezuela — Mexico elects a new president July 1, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancer — could open the energy industry to the private investment and expertise needed to boost production, analysts say.

“There’s a lot of upside potential in Latin America that will boost the oil supply over the medium term,” said RoseAnne Franco, who analyzes exploration and production prospects in the region for the energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. “So it’s very positive.”

Political elements

Much of the exploration, though, will not be easy, cheap or, as in Argentina’s case, free of political pitfalls. Price controls on natural gas and import restrictions have made doing business in Argentina hard for energy companies. And last month, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s populist government stunned oil markets by expropriating YPF, the biggest energy company here, from Spain’s Repsol.

But the prize for energy companies is potentially huge. Repsol estimated this year that a cross section of the vast Dead Cow formation here in Neuquen province could hold nearly 23 billion barrels of gas and oil. That followed a U.S. Energy Information Administration report that said Argentina possibly has the third-largest shale gas resources after China and the United States.

“All the top-of-the-line companies are here,” said Guillermo Coco, energy minister of Neuquen province, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. Although only about 200 wells have been drilled, Coco said companies here talk of drilling 10,000 or more in the next 15 years.

Wells on the horizon

On a recent day here in a dusty spot called Loma La Lata, German Perez oversaw a team of 30 technicians from the Houston-based oil- services giant Schlumberger as they prepared to frack a well.

The operation was huge: Trucks lined up with revving generators. Giant containers brimmed with water. Hoses used for firing chemicals into wells littered the ground. Cranes hoisted huge bags of artificial sand into mixers. Then, 1,200-horsepower pumps blasted water, chemicals and sand nearly 9,000 feet into the earth. “This is a hard rock, so we create countless cracks and fissures, for the gas and oil to flow,” Perez said.

Staring at the stark landscape, broken up here and there by oil rigs, Perez said he thought many companies would one day arrive in search of oil and gas. “The projections are pretty good,” he said. “In our case, we have been here a year and a half and we have tripled the equipment we have. And we think we will double that in another year.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

One of the two last side events on the last Friday of  the second Informal-Informal reading of the draft to Rio 2012 (RIO+20) was about the place of Mother Nature as seen by indigenous cultures that still respect the holiness of the Earth and by intellectuals that are ready to stop a minute and contemplate about the superiority of earth oriented cultures.

Moderated by Lisinka Ulatowska, Coordinator, Major Group Cluster on the Commons, this side event discussed a number of initiatives to create commons-based economies, and how these can be expanded and built upon.

Mario Ruales, Advisor to the Ecuadorian Minister of Coordination of Heritage, highlighted the adoption of a new constitution in 2008, which recognized the rights of Mother Earth. He emphasized the role of natural and indigenous peoples to respect and protect the ecosystem, saying that the constitution has a lot of processes that would allow this to be pursued. He noted Ecuador’s call for a new development architecture, saying that this has been proposed for Rio+20.

Leon Siu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hawaiian Kingdom, outlined his work for reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i, saying that should this occur, many of the traditional practices for land management, agriculture and conservation of natural resources will return. He lamented the marginalization of the indigenous peoples, saying that reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i would rectify this problem.

Rob Wheeler, Global Ecovillage Network, outlined that the commons-based approach is one where the land and its resources are cooperatively owned, managed and shared among those living on the commons. He noted that ecovillages, which are based on such a model, are among the most sustainable communities in existence. He noted that many lessons on sustainability can be learnt from ecovillages, underscoring their ability to minimize waste, promote clean, renewable energy and ensure the sustainable consumption of natural resources.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates addressed the different financing systems that could be used for implementing a commons-based model. They also discussed referencing the rights of nature in the Rio+20 outcome document.

Ecuador is a member of the ALBA group of Latin and Caribbean Nations like Bolivia. Both countries were left with strong lodes of indigenous people and the governments attempt to speak for them. The Kingdom of Hawaii does still exist even though Hawaii has become a US State and thus does not recognize a King. Nevertheless, You can still see a functioning royal House on the main Hawaii Island.

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As it happened, on the following day, Saturday May 5th, 2012, I had to be in Washington DC and made it also my business to go to visit the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian at 4th Street & Independence Avenue S,W. At the door I saw the announcement that the next weekend Saturday, May 12 – Sunday May 13, 2012, 10 am – 5:30 pm they will celebrate the BOLIVIAN SUMA QAMANA FESTIVAL – sponsored by the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

“Discover Bolivia’s Magic, culture, Heritage, Joy of Living Well.”

The Museum doors are etched with sun symbols and open to the east to greet the rising sun as do many traditional Native houses. Native people honor the sun as a life-giver and calendar – instructing when to plant, harvest, conduct ceremonies. The American Indian is responding to Environmental Challenges and the Museum has established a special website for this - www.AmericanIndian.si.edu

At present the museum has two special exhibits. One is very appropriate to present American Indian culture as it evolved in the last 250 years – the interaction with horses and the way they viewed these large and friendly animals. The show is dedicated to “A SONG FOR THE HORSE NATION” and here this Nation are the horses themselves taken as if they were like humans.

The other show includes just one item and I stood there in state of shock. The title is HUICHOL ART ON WHEELS.” Its exhibition is planned from March 20 to May 6th 2012 – so let me say without any hesitation – good ridance before the Bolivian event next week.

Why am I quite angry at this exhibit covered with Huichol Art? Let me make sure that there should be no misunderstanding – it is not because of the Huichols. These are people from the West-Central Mexico who are known for their beadwork. Sometimes they take an object and cover it with colorful beads. The Huichol call themselves in their own language the Wixaritari people and I bought items from them years ago in a store they managed in Porto Vallarta, Jalisco.

The problem with this exhibition of one single item is that it is what they call – a VOCHOL – now that is a common Beetle Volkswagen that was completely covered in beads. Again – not that this car is bad looking – but why in this world in which the indigenous people do every possible effort to tell us that they understand the environment and suffer from climate change, and then bring into this interesting museum a common motor-vehicle that when operated uses gasoline?

WHY BEAD A BUG? asks the museum brochure and proceeds to answer:
The Vochol demonstrates the complex intersections of traditional and modern cultures. It serves as opportunity to bring attention to contemporary indigenous art while also highlighting Wixaritari culture and talent. The project is a collaboration between the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Museo de Arte Popular, and the state governments of Nayarit and Jalisco, home to the Wixatari people. And let me add here that it must be also home of the assembly plants of Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico. Further – it must be friends of the US Oil industry and the US Auto Manufacturers that convinced that this big piece of art covering the auto-monster vehicle got into the American Indian Museum in order to soften our resistance to fossil fuels transportation – albeit by a reasonably small vehicle.

The Wixatari artist Francisco Bautista used 2,277,000 glass seed beads to cover this beetle, and he finished the work in 2010 according to the license plate attached to the car. Then, let me never forget what my friend Professor Jad Neeman from the Tel Aviv University told me when we went to see a particular exhibition of what looked to me as unused canvases – the main role of modern art is to make us angry so we are moved from our position of not caring. If that is what the exhibitors had in mind – so this was very great art, because it made me care very much – when I concluded that this did not belong into this particular museum.

In above context let me also write here what I found in the permanent exhibit on the 4-th floor – a stoty about another beetle:

This comes from the Cherokee Nation. They tell that “Long ago – all things existed above the sky, from horizon to horizon. The bird and animal people (you remember the horse people I mentioned earlier?) wondered about the water-covered world below and sent Water-Beetle to explore. He descended and returned with a small piece of mud that spread over the water.”

This obviously was another beetle – the one we like for itself.

Further, in a story from the Campo Indians North of San Diego. They ended up being the address where the San Diego garbage was sent for landfill that gave them the Golden Acorn Casino not far from the Mexico border. The local Amerindians did not agree but got it anyway.

The Environmentalists tell them that they show  who they are with appropriate ways of viewing their land as one of their greatest assets.

Their lands are being decimated under them, but the indigenous people make serious attempts to survive.

The IOWA say – Our Songs and Our Ceremonies Enable Us To Survive.

The Nahua state – Our Laws and way of thinking shall continue.

The Cherokees state simply – WE ARE STILL HERE!



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Correa Faces a Challenge from ‘El Hermano Mayor’.

March 16, 2012

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Ekow Bartels-Kodwo


President Rafael Correa of Ecuador recently emerged as victor in a libel suit that he brought against two journalists from the Ecuadorian paper El Universo at the National Court of Justice in Quito.

He sued the journalists for USD 5 million apiece, and was awarded USD 1 million from each of the defendants, although he later pardoned both editors.  His litigious victory is among the few positive developments for Correa of late, as he faces a number of newly-emerging challenges as Ecuador’s president. In one such instance, he is being forced to defend his decision to award mining contracts in Ecuador’s jungle without first conferring with the directly-affected communities that live on the land. His hasty decision has incited massive protests among Amazonian indigenous communities.

To make matters worse, President Correa is also facing a challenge for his job from none other than his very own brother.

In an interview published on March 13, 2012 in the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais, Fabricio Correa, President Rafael Correa’s older brother, explained his motivations for trying to unseat his own brother.

Speaking from Montevideo, Fabricio Correa lamented the rampant corruption and increasing insecurity due to the activities of drug cartels, while also accusing his brother of clamping down too hard on press freedoms. “We are constantly living in fear [in Ecuador],” he maintained.

Fabricio Correa, is controversial in his own right, he has been in the national spotlight since his relationship with the younger Correa went sour in 2009 following the termination of government contracts awarded to his companies.

More recently, Fabricio came to the attention of the Ecuadorian national media after the president sued the two El Universo journalists. Rafael Correa levied legal action against the two after they in part based new revelations on accounts given by Fabricio.

Certain investigative chapters, later revealed in their book El Gran Hermano, unearthed corrupt deals made by Fabricio’s companies. The piece reiterated Fabricio’s claims that his brother, the president, was well-aware of the corrupt bidding process used in awarding government contracts.

The court case, which was tried before the Ecuadorian National Court of Justice (CNJ) in Quito, led to the brothers accusing and counter-accusing each other of corruption. This cat-and-mouse game of claim and counterclaim culminated in Fabricio Correa submitting the necessary 158,000 signatures and requisite paperwork to make official his candidacy for the presidential election, which is set to take place in 2013.

Unlike the Miliband brothers in the United Kingdom, who are both running for the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. with each other’s blessings, the relationship between these two brothers is quite fierce. They are constantly engaged in a highly-publicized war of words with each other; Rafael called his big brother a greedy “big shot,” while Fabricio retorted by accusing his brother of “lacking manliness.”

Until now, the political opposition in Ecuador has been largely disorganized. A number of discussions aiming to unify the country’s biggest opposition factions have proven to be futile, as the deep-seeded ideological divisions continue to thwart attempts at temporary alliances and mergers to run against President Correa. This has created a unique opportunity for Fabricio Correa and his new EQUIPO Party to mount what looks like the only viable challenge to the president, who has governed the country since 2007.

For now, Fabricio Correa has submitted the requisite documents to run for the country’s highest office, but it remains to be seen whether the National Electoral Council can act independent of the president’s influence and confirm the elder Correa’s candidacy for the presidency. Regardless of how things turn out, one thing is clear: the next meeting of the two brothers may not be the pleasant.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

cumbre ALBA con Chavez

Hugo Chávez, anfitrión de la cumbre del Alba en Caracas.

Los presidentes de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; de Cuba, Raúl Castro; de Bolivia, Evo Morales; de Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; de Haití, Michel Martelly; el primer ministro de Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; de San Vicente y las Granadinas, Ralph Gonsalves; el premier de Antigua y Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer; y el canciller de Argentina, Héctor Timerman, acordaron celebrar dos reuniones al año, de carácter ordinario.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.

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América Latina: Cumbre del Alba entre la economía y Las Malvinas.

Infolatam/Efe

Caracas, 5 enero 2012

www.infolatam.com/2012/02/05/america-latina-cumbre-del-alba-entre-la-economia-y-las-malvinas/

Las claves

  • El Consejo Económico de la Alternativa propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidente Chávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque
  • El presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, propuso este domingo la creación de un Consejo de Defensa de los países miembros de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Alba).
  • ALBA estudia sancionar a R.Unido y no asistir a Cumbre de las Américas si no asiste Cuba.

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Integración desnuda

“Y aquí estamos entrando en la segunda década del milenio, sin visión estratégica de la integración, perdidos entre siglas que a nadie dicen nada ALBA, Unasur o CELAC por solo nombrar algunas. Mientras tanto, los países del continente disfrutan de una relativa bonanza económica, producto del aislamiento y la exportación de materias primas que finalizará en cuanto se cierre el ciclo económico”. (Tal Cual. Venezuela)

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La Alianza Bolivariana  (Alba)  dedicó la jornada a las políticas económicas conjuntas y la posición de apoyo a Argentina, por el caso de las Islas Malvinas, y a Cuba, para presionar su presencia en la próxima Cumbre de las Américas, a la cual no ha sido invitada aún.  El Alba propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidenteChávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque

Los gobernantes del ALBA acordaron en Caracas la creación de un “espacio económico” y de un fondo de reservas de su banco regional. También se comprometieron a redoblar su apoyo a Haití y a estudiar sanciones contra Londres por el conflicto por las Islas Malvinas que mantiene con Argentina.

Los presidentes de los países del ALBA debatirán esta jornada la entrada de nuevos miembros, con el fin de consolidar sus objetivos integracionistas. Haití, nación que desde 2007 participa en este mecanismo como observador, figura entre las solicitudes de ingreso pleno, interés que fue ratificado por su mandatario,Michel Martelly, para acceder a todos los beneficios que el bloque subregional ofrece.

El canciller de Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, detalló que para los próximos 2 y 3 de marzo se celebrará una Cumbre extraordinaria del ALBA en Haití, a fin de revisar el trabajo planificado en esta cita.

Los jefes de Estado también analizaron la posible incorporación de Suriname y Santa Lucía. De igual manera, debatirán los documentos de trabajo que se desprendieron de las reuniones realizadas por partidos políticos y medios de comunicación de los países que integran la Alianza.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 19th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Race for the White House: A Call for a Regionally-based Enlightened Foreign Policy toward Latin America.

November 18, 2011

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow and Fulbright Scholar Robert Works.

Council on Hemispheric Affairs
 www.coha.org/the-race-for-the-whi…

COHA is based at the Americas Society on Park Avenue, New York City and provides information to business interests in the US – Latin America and Canada region.
As such there is no surprise that as an organization they favor Republicans over Democrats – but are critical of Republicans as well when they do not do enough to promote US  business interests in the region.

This article seems to favor Governor Romney from among the names tossed around in the 2012 race for the US Presidency.

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With a little under a year remaining until the next U.S. presidential election, a coherent and sustainable area policy toward Latin America remains absent from the campaign literature and both presidential parties’ electoral strategies. In fact, a true U.S.-Latin American foreign policy—one that involves succinct initiatives rather than populist rants or ideological outbursts—has yet to be developed in the 21st century. If one is left to assess the future of U.S.-Latin American foreign policy simply by relying on the last three years of the Obama administration, or the empty rhetoric from the entire Republican field, the future appears rather bleak. Nonetheless, one candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has detailed a slightly weightier, yet basically ill-informed vision that promotes regional integration and the strengthening of economic ties. His plan is almost entirely dominated by commercial interests and remains in large part focused on securitization. Barely moving beyond a fallow bilateral approach harnessed during the post-World War II years, Romney’s Latin American policy does manage to squeeze out some relatively non-bombastic verbiage.

For his part, President Obama has yet to outline a detailed vision on Latin American issues for his reelection, but the short blurb on the White House policy page indicates a usefully backseat nature that Latin America has held for the current administration. In a few words, U.S. foreign policy toward the region is described by the Democrats as being committed to “a new era of partnership with countries throughout the hemisphere, working on key shared challenges of economic growth and equality, energy and climate futures, and regional and citizen security.” The Obama administration can point to the recent passage of the free trade agreements, negotiated during the Bush administration, to complement this short, rhetorical ‘vision,’ but other than that, the administration’s foreign policy toward Latin America has been frail, if not exiguous.

In defense of President Obama, the Bush Doctrine ignored Latin America as well, but far-right figures in the region were relatively successful in attracting U.S. resources as well as favorable treatment by constructing their foreign policies beneath the umbrella of a specious war on terrorism. While  Colombia (through Plan Colombia) and to a lesser degree Mexico (through the Merida Initiative) successively gained U.S. attention and resources, the newly achieved backing only sought to strengthen the overall security capacity of these anti-drug forces in return for supporting the U.S. global securitization policy. A definitive conclusion regarding the success of this policy has not yet been reached, but the need for a regional vision that would promote strong ties to the U.S. and create regional integration has always been in process.

Thus far, there has been only one plan worthy of a conceptualization being offered to the region that even considers such an approach to Latin American policymaking. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is generally considered intermittently to be Republican frontrunner, and who is running close with President Obama in national polls, has recently laid out a 43-page document detailing his vision for U.S. foreign policy. In a formidable feat for Republican regional policymakers, he actually presents (if nothing more) to address a vision for Latin America, promoting regional integration, over the current bilateral approach directed primarily toward Washington’s allies in the War on Terrorism.

Romney, advised by a committee professedly oriented toward Latin America and headed by a series of pro forma old hands with tired notions, as well as some academics and respectable diplomats, details the creation of a regional institution called the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA), in order to promote “a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region.” If this program’s goals remain the same, its specific details will remain vague and uninspiring; that said, the mere offer of such a new template contrasts sharply with the approaches currently being proposed by other candidates and the Obama administration, which has hardly done better in offering much and delivering little. In any case, Romney unsurprisingly presents a heavily business-tilted regional approach to integration that claims to promote a more democratic and economically responsive Latin America. His plan appears to follow the neo-liberal model based on institutionalism, which asserts that U.S. interests are better served through multilateralism and regionalism rather than through bilateralism.

If CEOLA seeks to achieve the creation of a new regional forum integrating South America with Central and North America, a bona fide U.S.-Latin American relationship could be developed in the process. The Romney formula provides a meager platform to discuss a wide array of issues from securitization to economic policy, as well as a methodology that could allow states to develop their own regional approaches for improving records on human rights, alleviating poverty, and other issues plaguing Latin America. The region, once consolidated and integrated, could also pursue a universal approach toward justice, utilizing transnational courts that adhere to cultural and legal traditions while also addressing the shortcomings of fledgling criminal justice systems that characterize the region. If it is unsuccessful however, such a system could add to the region’s woes brought on by endemic corruption.

Obviously, the ultimate success of Romney’s regional policy would rely on a variety of factors, including the level of activism on the part of the U.S. in the development of hemispheric initiatives. Washington must only be involved in the initial creation of big policy and have no greater power than carrying out a formal advisory role. CEOLA would symbolically represent a comprehensive, if not a bold approach for a new path forward in the 21st century, but not an interventionist one. At this point the Romney plan is sufficiently multifaceted to provide him with significant wiggle room, if this is what is really sought. This is not to argue that the post-9/11 policies of securitization are not in need of being replaced by a more developed, regional vision for Latin America. Only the development of a new institution would provide the possibility for new directions with specific goals that are widely accepted.

To his supporters, Romney is the only candidate that has offered a regional vision for Latin America, albeit one at risk of being more of pap and treacle than of sounder stuff. Ironically, it may be more suitable for regimes that are not likely to easily tolerate U.S. intervention of any sort, and have an increasing demand for Latin American sovereignty, to pick and choose their own policies.  President Obama should embrace such a move in order to establish a more integrated, equal, and just Western hemisphere.  Until a new plan that moves beyond securitization is realized, Latin America will remain in the backwaters of policymaking and under the canopy of an overreaching U.S. foreign policy.

In any case, the time for a renewed U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America is not only long overdue, but is also being demanded by the region here and now. Mitt Romney has at least presented a starting point for a 21st century foreign policy that will likely go nowhere.  As wobbly as it is, the other candidates, including the president, could do far more, but will at least have a modest road to build upon with this model.





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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 31st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Yasuni-ITT Initiative Thesis Available

Posted on February 6th, 2010 by Dr. Wil Burns on www.TeachingClimateLaw.org

A new document regarding the Yasuni-ITT Initiative (the innovative initiative of Ecuador to keep petroleum underground, protect biodiversity and indigenous peoples, and develop sustainably) is now available online: The Yasuni-ITT Initiative: an international equity mechanism? Master thesis.

The thesis aimed at analysing and assessing whether the Yasuni-ITT Initiative can be considered as an alternative pilot project to address not only environmental and climate justice, but also power imbalances. Current and proposed climate change mechanisms such as the CDM and REDD, as well as the history of Ecuador are being examined as motivations of the initiative. Such motivations include injustice aspects as well as how the petroleum industry has affected the country severely in terms of environment, society, economy and politics. These motivations and the Yasuni-ITT Initiative are therefore carefully examined in relation to environmental and climate justice as well as power imbalances.

The thesis is available through the link below. For any questions, be welcome to write me (also if you cannot access the file, please contact me so I can send it in an attachement).

docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B59l5zL7zsakMjg5ODljNzEtYWNiNi00YjBmLWIxOGMtMmE4YzBhNThkZThk&hl=en

Lavinia Warnars,

Researcher for the Yasuní-ITT Initiative

www.ikbeneensportklimmer.nl/fien

lwarnars@gmail.com

tel nl: +31650887172

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Overcoming rural poverty depends on a healthy environment, where local people can find sustainable solutions to their challenges. The Equator Initiative was launched in 2002 by UNDP’s Jim McNeil in order to help the search for sustainability by safeguarding biodiversity resources.

Every two years, the Equator Initiative partnership awards prizes to the 25 outstanding community efforts each of which receives $5,000 with five selected for special recognition and an additional $15,000 each. The recipients come from three groups:

AFRICA, ASIA-PACIFIC, and LATIN AMERICA – CARIBBEAN regions.

The announcement was “After an extensive process of evaluation, the Equator Initiative’s Technical Advisory Committee has selected an exceptional subset of 25 winning initiatives, from a total pool of nearly 300 nominations from 66 different countries.”

Africa:

Asia & the Pacific:

Latin America & the Caribbean:

Obviously, we have no problem with the choices, nor with the fact that the large countries of Kenya, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico got two prizes each, nor that the two Mega-States got next to nothing – China nothing and India one – but we do wonder how it is that the Independent Pacific Island States, and the Independent Caribbean Island States, coincidentally both groups, got absolutely nothing. Does this mean that the rebelious SIDS and AOSIS, as groups, are in UN disfavor? They happen to be in the Tropics and quite a few are biodiversity very rich!

———-

The judges were:
Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan
Robert Edward “ted” Turner III, The father of it all and benefactor of The UN Foundation
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Third World Tebtebba Foundation
M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the MSSRF Resarch Foundation
Steven J.McCormick, President, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Dr. Gro Brubdtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway and mother of it all
Professor Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate.
————–
The two specially honored NGO individuals:
Philippe Cousteau, third generation to the famous family,
Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN.
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The three specially honored communities:
Mavis Hatlane for Makuleke Community of Pafuri Camp, South Africa,
Maria Alejandra Velasco for Consejo Regional Tsimane’ Mosetene of Pilon Lajas, Bolivia,
Diep Thi My Hanh for Bambu Village of Phu An, Viet Nam.
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To increase our “puzzlement” – here the announcement how the UN General Assembly intends to treat this year the Small Island States in their deliberations – this was the only time we found a notion for their special problems:
Saturday, 25 September:
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Round table 2 — Enhancing international support for small island developing States.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Amazon Civilizations

Archaeologists say centuries-old civilizations in the Amazon were much larger and more advanced than previously thought.

Scientists find evidence discrediting theory Amazon was virtually unlivable.

Gallery
Archaeologists say the heart of the Amazon was home to an advanced, even spectacular civilization that managed the forest and enriched infertile soils to feed thousands.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010.

SAN MARTIN DE SAMIRIA, PERU – To the untrained eye, all evidence here in the heart of the Amazon signals virgin forest, untouched by man for time immemorial – from the ubiquitous fruit palms to the cry of howler monkeys, from the air thick with mosquitoes to the unruly tangle of jungle vines.

Archaeologists, many of them Americans, say the opposite is true: This patch of forest, and many others across the Amazon, was instead home to an advanced, even spectacular civilization that managed the forest and enriched infertile soil to feed thousands.

 

 

The findings are discrediting a once-bedrock theory of archaeology that long held that the Amazon, unlike much of the Americas, was a historical black hole, its environment too hostile and its earth too poor to have ever sustained big, sedentary societies. Only small and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, the assumption went, could ever have eked out a living in an unforgiving environment.

But scientists now believe that instead of stone-age tribes, like the groups that occasionally emerge from the forest today, the Indians who inhabited the Amazon centuries ago numbered as many as 20 million, far more people than live here today.

“There is a gigantic footprint in the forest,” said Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo, 49, a Colombian-born professor at the University of Florida who is working this swath in northeast Peru.

Stooping over a man-made Indian mound on a recent day, he picked up shards of ceramics and dark, nutrient-rich earth made fertile hundreds of years ago by human hands. “All you can see is an artifact of the past,” he said. “It’s a product of human actions,” he said.

The evidence is not just here outside tiny San Martin de Samiria, an indigenous hamlet hours by speed boat from the jungle city of Iquitos. It is found across Amazonia.

Outside Manaus, Brazil, Eduardo Neves, a renowned Brazilian archaeologist, and American scientists have found huge swaths of “terra preta,” so-called Indian dark earth, land made fertile by mixing charcoal, human waste and other organic matter with soil. In 15 years of work they have also found vast orchards of semi-domesticated fruit trees, though they appear like forest untrammeled by man.

Along the Xingu, an Amazon tributary in Brazil, Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida has found moats, causeways, canals, the networks of a stratified civilization that, he says, existed as early as A.D. 800. In Bolivia, American, German and Finnish archaeologists have been studying how pre-Columbian Indians moved tons of soil and diverted rivers, major projects of a society that existed long before the birth of Christ.

Many of these ongoing excavations follow the work of Anna C. Roosevelt. In the 1980s on Marajo Island, at the mouth of the Amazon, she turned up house foundations, elaborate pottery and evidence of an agriculture so advanced she believes the society there possibly had well over 100,000 inhabitants.

Her initial conclusions, published in 1991, helped redirect scientific thinking about Amazonia, with younger archaeologists who followed buttressing and building upon her findings.

“I think we’re humanizing the history of the Amazon,” said Neves, 44, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo. “We’re not looking at the Amazon anymore as a black box. We’re seeing that these people were just like anywhere else in the world. We’re giving them a sense of history.”

The number of scientists who disagree has diminished, but influential critics remain, none more so than Betty J. Meggers, director of Latin American archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution. She said the new theories are based more on wishful thinking than science.

“I’m sorry to say that archaeologists like to produce sensational refutation of previous theories,” said Meggers, whose 1971 book, “Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise,” holds that the region is unfit for large-scale habitation. “You know, this is how you get your promotions.”

There is also concern among some that the new theories could pose a danger to the Amazon. If the forest were not as unspoiled as previously thought, they wonder, then wouldn’t that serve as a green light to developers today?

“Just because the indigenous had complex societies that managed the forest can’t justify the large-scale transformations in the Amazon today,” said Zach Hurwitz, a geographer who consults International Rivers, a Berkeley, Calif.-based environmental group that has raised concerns about dam building projects and mineral exploration.

A study of contrasts:

In some ways, the theory that the Amazon may have been a wellspring of civilization should come as no surprise in the 21st century. In a long perilous journey along Ecuador’s Napo River in 1541, Spanish friar Gaspar de Carvajal, a chronicler of the European conquest, wrote of “cities that gleamed white,” canoes that carried dozens of Indian warriors, “fine highways” and “very fruitful land.”

But until recently, scientists and explorers had all but rejected his work as fantastical, the diaries of a man who would write anything to justify to investors back in Spain that the hunt for El Dorado would bear fruit.

In sharp contrast, explorers in the 20th century noted that the Amazon held no pyramids or stone aqueducts, like those of Mexico. And the people they encountered belonged to small bands – Amazonian Indians who appeared to be little more than human relics forgotten by time.

Roosevelt, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, said that was because the civilizations encountered by Europeans quickly disintegrated, victims of disease.

But until their demise, she said, their cultures were anything but primitive. “They have magnitude, they have complexity,” she said. “They are amazing.”

A feel for the land

Archaeology in the Amazon is not easy. Few rock formations meant that any buildings had to rely on wood. Left untended – or abandoned – they would soon be quickly swallowed by the jungle.

So those scientists who go today rely on new technologies to unearth the past, from satellite imagery to ground-penetrating radar and remote sensors to find ceramics.

Oyuela-Caycedo, the University of Florida archaeologist, and Nigel Smith, a geographer and palm tree expert, have yet to use these tools here, a short boat ride from this town, San Martin de Samiria. Instead they have been trying to get a feel for the land beneath their feet.

On a recent morning, using a soil coring device, Oyuela-Caycedo extracted a heavy, black dirt in a spot he calls Salvavidas, or Lifesaver. It was terra preta, black, nutrient-rich, as good for agriculture as the soil in Iowa.

“It is the best soil that you can find in the Amazon,” said Oyuela-Caycedo, who wore netting over his face to protect him from mosquitoes. “You don’t find it in natural form.”

Three feet deep here, and stretching nearly 100 acres, this terra preta could have fed at least 5,000 people. The forests here were also carefully managed in other ways, Oyuela-Caycedo believes, with the Indians planting semi-domesticated trees that bore all manner of fruit, such as macambo, sapote and jungle avocados.

Bits of colorful ceramics – matching that found elsewhere in the Amazon – seem to show that those who lived here were the Omaguas, the same people Gaspar de Carvajal encountered nearly 500 years before.

There is no doubt, Oyuela-Caycedo said, that the Omaguas faced hardship: insects, poisonous snakes, poor soil. But their environment had vast potential, he said, and the Omaguas exploited it before their civilization was brought to heel by disease.

“The only thing they had to do was to change and transform the landscape,” Oyuela-Caycedo said. “And that is what they did.”
 www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS REMOVED FROM UN LIST OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN DANGER.

Ecuador’s headway in combating threats posed by invasive species, unbridled tourism and over-fishing has allowed the Galapagos Islands to be removed from the list of World Heritage sites considered to be in danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Galapagos, comprising 19 islands and a marine reserve, are situated some 1,000 kilometres from the South American continent. Deemed a World Heritage site in 1978, they have been described as a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution.”

Situated where three ocean currents meet, the Galapagos were formed by seismic and volcanic activity.

Along with the islands’ extreme isolation, these processes led to the development of unusual animal life, such as the land iguana and the giant tortoise, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection after his visit to the Galapagos in 1835.

They were put on the list of sites in danger in 2007, and the World Heritage Committee, currently meeting in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, welcomed the Ecuadorian Government’s ongoing efforts to bolster conservation measures, especially in the use of biosecurity measures to prevent foreign plant and animal species from reaching the islands through the use of sniffer dogs and other means.

The Committee also lauded the country’s moves to limit the number of tourists and arrivals of ships and aircraft, as well as to control fishing.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Probe at UN climate talks after Saudi sign smashed

Saturday, 12 June 2010 10:06
author:Reuters
POLITICS & ECONOMICS / NEWS
by Reuters, Saturday, 12 June 2010

SAUDI STANCE: Saudi angered many by blocking study of global  warming. (Getty Images)

SAUDI STANCE: Saudi angered many by blocking study of global warming. (Getty Images)

UN climate negotiators agreed to an investigation on Friday after protesters smashed a sign emblazoned “Saudi Arabia” and dropped it in toilet after Riyadh blocked a study of deeper cuts in greenhouse gases.

Many countries condemned the protest, after Saudi Arabia blocked a request by small island states at the May 31-June 11 talks for a study of tougher cuts in greenhouse gases to help slow a rise in world sea levels.


Mexico’s delegate Luis Alfonso de Alba, whose country will host the main climate talks in late 2010, said he was initiating an investigation by the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

Pieces of the smashed Saudi Arabia sign – about 30 cm and placed on a table to identify the delegation during negotiations – were dropped in a toilet and then photographed, delegates said. The pictures were then put up on some walls.

“This is a serious incident. We should fully support that the secretariat should carry out an investigation and the result should be informed to the parties,” Chinese delegate Su Wei said.

Lebanon’s delegate also said that the Saudi flag was abused during a protest in the conference hall after Saudi Arabia blocked the small island state’s push.

Saudi Arabia has often expressed worries at U.N. climate negotiations that a shift towards renewable energies will undermine its oil export earnings.

It opposed the small island state’s push for a study of limiting global warming, saying that wider issues such as the impact on exporters, also had to be taken into account.

———————————-

Sabotage to blame for World Cup fiasco – Al Jazeera.

by Andy Sambidge, ArabianBusiness.com, Friday, 11 June 2010
 www.arabianbusiness.com/590311-te…

 www.arabianbusiness.com/590345-al…

Al Jazeera Sport, which suffered major technical problems during its broadcast of the FIFA World Cup to Middle East viewers, has blamed “a deliberate act of sabotage”.

Its exclusive coverage of the South Africa versus Mexico match on Friday was hit by regular transmission problems with fan across the region unable to enjoy the spectacle.

“Al Jazeera Sport would like to condemn the actions of those involved in the deliberate attempts to block its signal during its World Cup broadcasts yesterday,” Al Jazeera Sport said in a statement published by media in Qatar on Saturday.

“Despite its considerable efforts to bring the best coverage to the most possible fans across the Middle East and North Africa including 18 free-to-air games from the group stages, Al Jazeera Sport viewers repeatedly lost their signal through the course of yesterday’s opening fixture,” the statement added.

“This loss of signal was completely beyond Al Jazeera Sport’s control and they share in the frustrations of all those whose enjoyment was spoiled by what was a deliberate act of sabotage.”


Football fans across the Middle East cried foul on Friday as the start of Al Jazeera’s broadcast of the FIFA World Cup was hit by blank screens. Fans across Dubai, including thousands watching at special events across the emirate, reported technical problems.

Hundreds of fans also complained about the problems on Twitter.

Technical problems hit the beginning of the coverage by the Qatar based TV station with its special World Cup channels frozen or broadcasting in the wrong language in a number of countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.

For most of the first half an hour of the first game between hosts South Africa and Mexico, viewers were left with no picture or a frozen screen.

The issues appeared to have been sorted out shortly before half time but problems persisted throughout the second half of the match.

Broadcasts on the English language channel morphed into French commentary from the start and then the channel went blank. The English commentary only appeared much later in the first half of the game.

The only coverage working throughout was the HD channel broadcasting in Arabic only.

Broadcasting rights across the region are owned by Al Jazeera Sport, and can currently be accessed either by purchasing an Al Jazeera Sports card or through Etisalat’s pay TV E-Vision.

————————

Al Jazeera has ‘FIFA backing’ to tackle World Cup woes

by Andy Sambidge, Saturday, 12 June 2010, ArabianBusiness.com

BACKUP PLAN: Al Jazeera Sport has implemented its contingency plan  to minimise future World Cup disruption which has been blamed on  saboteurs. (Getty Images)
BACKUP PLAN: Al Jazeera Sport has implemented its contingency plan to minimise future World Cup disruption which has been blamed on saboteurs. (Getty Images)

The general manager of Al Jazeera Sport said on Saturday that the company had implemented a “back up plan” to minimise future disruption to its FIFA World Cup coverage, adding that it had the full backing of FIFA to tackle the problem.

Nasser Al Khelaifi told Arabian Business in a telephone interview that the people responsible for “destroying our signal” would be found “very soon”.

However, later on Saturday, the broadcaster experienced further technical problems, notably during the Argentina v Nigeria match, as protests mounted up on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Al Khelaifi said that the TV station had the “full backing” of World Cup organisers FIFA to find the culprits he accused of deliberately jammed the Nilesat and Arabsat satellites.

In a statement, FIFA said: “FIFA is supporting Al Jazeera in trying to locate the source of the interference in the broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. FIFA is appalled by any action to try to stop Al Jazeera’s authorised transmissions of the FIFA World Cup as such actions deprive football fans from enjoying the world game in the region. It is not acceptable to FIFA.”

Al Jazeera Sport suffered major technical problems during its broadcast of the opening World Cup match between South Africa versus Mexico on Friday.

Al Khelaifi said: “The people who were responsible did not steal the TV rights of Al Jazeera yesterday, they stole the viewers’ rights because this was a match that was being broadcast free to everyone. Of course we have been in contact with FIFA and they are supporting us to find them [the people responsible].”

He added that Al Jazeera was working with “a number of international specialised companies” to track down the culprits and that he was confident they would be found soon.

In a statement released earlier, the TV company said: “Al Jazeera Sport would like to condemn the actions of those involved in the deliberate attempts to block its signal during its World Cup broadcasts yesterday”, adding that it was a “deliberate act of sabotage”.

Al Khelaifi told Arabian Business that its contingency plan to minimise future disruption was now in operation but added that he could not say if future satellite attacks would happen during the football tournament.

“I think these people are sick,” he said, adding that everything was being done to ensure the best possible TV coverage for the rest of the tournament.

Technical problems hit the beginning of the coverage by the Qatar based TV station with its special World Cup channels frozen or broadcasting in the wrong language in a number of countries across the Middle East.

For most of the first half an hour of the first game between hosts South Africa and Mexico, viewers were left with no picture or a frozen screen.

The issues appeared to have been sorted out shortly before half time but problems persisted throughout the second half of the match.

The second match of the night – France v Uruguay – was unaffected.

Al Khelaifi could not put a figure on how many viewers were affected by the disruption on Friday but said that 85m people had tuned in for Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Champions League Final last month.

Broadcasting rights across the region are exclusively owned by Al Jazeera Sport

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Today’s Feguson caricature in The Financial Times shows Uncle Sam holding a gas pump line pistol-fashion to his head – in a suicide position.
PROGRESSIVE VOICES  – VIEWPOINTS WORTH READING:
Oil industry power was the cause of the explosion and spill and will cause those that will no doubt occur in the future. Such power is also why Obama and his successors will find it next to impossible to shift the nation from its fatal dependence on foreign oil and, in the long run, to convert to alternative energy.
If you thought one of the biggest oil spills in history would automatically propel strong legislation to cap carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, think again.

Democratic Senate leaders beat back a conservative attempt to kneecap the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but not without six Dems defecting. Only 53 Senators backed the EPA, and even some of those did so reluctantly.

And I say “only 53,” even though that’s a majority, because any climate bill will need 60 votes, period. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last year to prevent climate legislation from being eligible for a simple majority vote under Senate budget rules.

That level of support for regulating carbon pollution is pretty much the same before the Gulf gusher as after. Certainly no Senator announced a change in position in the aftermath of the disaster.

Why? Because the complex political dynamics — which make passing transformational energy legislation extremely challenging and requiring frustrating compromises — remain the same.

18 Democratic Senators hail from the top coal-producing states. Key right-leaning Senators come from oil producing states (Louisiana) or wanna-be offshore oil producing states (Virginia). Still more come from energy-intensive manufacturing states or agribusiness states.

And you still need to find a few Republicans to get to 60, the path to which according to the utterly maddening Sen. Lindsey Graham, lies in compromises for more nuclear power and, as you may have heard, offshore drilling. Such a deal has had tacit support from major environmental groups but is now harder to seal in the wake of the BP blowout.

OK, so we see that in the end the problems are with the US voters who think naturally of life in the moment rather then life in the future – their children life and nature’s life.

So, if you cannot really hit at US corporations – it starts looking as an imperative that it must be the other – or somehow a semi-other that transgressed.

In no way am I going to try to defend BP, but then how can I blame them only for having taken advantage of lack-of-law in matters of search for oil in the US, as in most of the rest of the world as well?

The US President stands there and fires brim-stones at BP as if it were not clear that hours later the Prime Minister of the UK will have to stand up and try to defend his people. With all that talk of globalization and multi-Nationals – Exxon is still a US company and BP is a British Company, and as I told John Hofmeister, the former CEO of the Dutch-British Company Shell Oil, the only thing I could agree with him is that BP and Shell get the short end of the Administration’s stick is because they are in the image of the people foreign companies.  Oh yes, it is BP that did the present mess, but it is Washington that allowed them to do it and Prime Minster Cameron will claim now that this is not fair.

I have no intent here to go beyond saying that The Financial Times today has several articles pointing out this British reation, and we predict that this problem – the problem of the fraying of the US-British high level of alignment in world affairs, may yet become a main collateral damage to the now gone “Deepwater Horizon.”

BILL BOYARSKY
Big Oil Is Still Boss
truthdig.com – A lot of pundits want President Barack Obama to turn terrible tempered in his handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. These critics ignore the real issue – the death grip the oil industry has on Washington and the state capitals of oil-producing states. Oil industry power was the cause of the explosion and spill and will cause those that will no doubt occur in the future. Such power is also why Obama and his successors will find it next to impossible to shift the nation from its fatal dependence on foreign oil and, in the long run, to convert to alternative energy.
BILL SCHER
Climate Vote Shows Gulf Gusher Changed Nothing In Senate
If you thought one of the biggest oil spills in history would automatically propel strong legislation to cap carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, think again.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

At UN, Bolivia’s Morales Hits Obama “Blackmail” and Lack of Change, “Sign Kyoto”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 — “Maybe the color of the skin of the U.S. President has changed,” Bolivian President Evo Morales told the Press on Friday, “but nothing else has changed.” Video here, from Minute 47:45.

Inner City Press asked Morales about reports in the Latin American press that the U.S. had “blackmailed” Bolivia and Ecuador by cutting off aid for not signing the Copenhagen Accord on climate change. Video here, from Minute 26:24.

Morales confirmed that “Ecuador lost $2 million, and Bolivia lost $3 million,” but said these were more than made up for by money from Venezuela and Brazil. “They took away the Millennium Account,” he said. “We don’t have any trade preferences any more. But we’re better off than before.”

Last month Morales convened an alternative Copenhagen meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Morales contrasts the non-binding Copenhagen Accord with the previous binding Kyoto protocol. On Friday he said the U.S. is “making a mistake” by cutting aid, that they could cooperate if the U.S. just “signed the Kyoto Protocol.”


Evo Morales at UN, change he can believe in not shown

To Cochabamba, the UN sent its Under Secretary General for Latin America, Alicia Barcena, to attend. She was reportedly booed as she read a statement from Ban Ki-moon, then offered “if you don’t want us here, then we will withdraw … we also represent peoples.”

Inner City Press asked Morales if, as requested in connection with the Cochabamba “cumbre,” he had raised the issue of the U.S. blackmail to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and if so what Ban had said. Morales did not answer this part of the question.

Since Ban is focused on obtaining a second term, which could be blocked by the U.S., France, UK, Russia or China, it is unlikely he would issue any criticism of the U.S., even about cutting off aid to countries like Bolivia and Ecuador. Millennium Development Goals, indeed.

One issue that was raised in the Morales group’s meeting with Ban was the upcoming naming of a new head of the UNFCCC, to lead the UN climate change talks into Cancun. Last week Inner City Press reported, based on tips from well placed Ambassadors, that the UN’s short list of four consists of the candidates from Costa Rica, India, South Africa and Hungary. The last is an inside candidate who already works for Ban Ki-moon, Janos Pasztor, who has recused himself from much of his work while seeking the UNFCCC post. We’ll see.

Footnote: given Evo Morales’ direct attack on Barack Obama, in a televised and well attended UN press conference, one might have expected the US Mission to the UN to have issued some response.  But so far, there’s been no statement from the US.

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