Pacific Agreement to be signed

As April 2011 is coming to an end, a new agreement, that may change the actual scenario is prepared to be signed today, the 28th.

Peruvian President Alan García, together with Colombian Juan Manoel Santos, Mexican Felipe Calderón and Chilean Sebastián Piñera, will held today the Lima Summit for Deep Integration and the heads of these states are expected to sign the creation of this new economic association, so called Pacific Agreement.

This new agreement is intended to lead new polices to improve productive and service sectors as well as the circulation of people between the signers of this agreement, looking forward to new markets, especially the Asian one.

“This agreement will improve the 5 billion dollars that these nations trade yearly,” said Eduardo Ferreyros, Peruvian Minister for International trade.

The freedom of trade, services and investments, the free flow of people between the nations are the main goals of this agreement, besides that, cooperation will be bigger in areas such as the fight against the drug dealing in the region, cooperation between the Police Forces to avoid crime and efforts to stop money laundering.

This is the first time that these nations are together in as agreement that intend to be so powerful and important. Peru and Colombia are together on these attempts since the Andean Pact, organization that didn’t succeed as well as it was intended.

The Pacific Agreement is a way, found by these countries, to try to guarantee a place on the crescent global market, specially the Asian, as Mr. Ferreyros mentioned. Some specialists are stating that this new bloc might be a way found to have a chance against other competitors that already have bigger structures and a better place on the market. Brazil is, for sure, the biggest adversary of these countries and they are clearly fighting to defeat the 7th economy of the world, and the biggest economy of the region.

Mexico, the country that had everything to be a big economy lost its way during history, specially with the dependence on the Unite States, that was let to be created by past governments.

Peru, is passing trough a presidential election, and is struggling to keep the economical and social changes that are taking place right now on the country. Colombia still fighting the problems with drug dealing and the guerrilla on their territory. Chile is the most prepared and developed one in the group, and has every chance to become the leader of this group.

Bin Laden is dead

According to Agência Brasil, the death of the leader and founder of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, could transform into a myth generating a struggle for control of leadership left by him, and intensify the world fight against terrorism, say specialists.  For them, there is also space for Brazil to stand in this debate in defense of terrorism and in search of peaceful settlements without the use of actions contrary to human rights, including torture.

Bin Laden was killed on Sunday by American special forces in a mansion where he lived with his family, about 100 km. from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The leader’s body was thrown overboard at sea, but the U.S. authorities ensure that a DNA test confirmed the identity of the founder of Al Qaeda. Professor Nilton Cesar Flores, teacher at Universidade Federal  Fluminense (UFF), said it was time for countries to take a stand on combating terrorism. In the case of Brazil, this is the opportunity to integrate into the international debate. “Brazil has to observe the situation and look for loopholes to defend his agenda, which is perhaps different from the American agenda,” he said.

In foreign policy, the Brazilian government has often reiterated his defense of human rights and consolidation of democratic instruments. For Carlos Eduardo Vidigal, a professor at Universidade de Brasilia, the current trend is to construct a myth about Bin Laden. “It’s hard to imagine the result would be negative or positive, but it is likely that we have to construct a myth about Bin Laden that will echo for decades to come,” said Vidigal.

In an official announcement, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated the president of the United States and its security forces for the operation, which ended with the death of Bin Laden. “This is an important and decisive strike to global terrorism. It proves once again that terrorists, sooner or later, always fall. In the global fight against terrorism there is only one way: to persevere, persevere, persevere,” he said.

The President of Chile, Miguel Juan Sebastian Piñera Echenque, offered a similar opinion about Bin Laden’s death: “Terrorism is also an enemy of every kind of freedom, including freedom of expression. Terrorism as expressed by Al Qaeda, is powerful, formidable and cruel enemy, one which stops at nothing, even the lives of innocent women and children.”

He added: “I am pleased that yesterday the whole world saw that, although late in coming, justice has been done, and that crimes committed against innocent people across the world will not go unpunished.”

The president revealed that “Yesterday, I had the opportunity to express to President Obama our commitment to the ongoing fight against organized crime, terrorism and evil in modern society.”

Finally, he emphasized that “Just as the defense of freedom, democracy and human rights crosses all borders, so too does the fight against organized crime and terrorism.”

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement in New York today following the news of Osama bin Laden’s death:

“The death of Osama bin Laden, announced by President Obama last night, is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.  The crimes of Al-Qaida touched most continents, bringing tragedy and loss of life to thousands of men, women and children.

The United Nations condemns in the strongest possible terms terrorism in all its forms, regardless of its purpose and wherever it is committed.  This is a day to remember for the victims and families of victims, here in the United States and everywhere in the world.  The United Nations will continue to fight against terrorism and will lead this campaign to fight against terrorism.

Personally, I am very much relieved by the news that justice has been done to such a mastermind of international terrorism.  I would like to commend the work and the determined and principled commitment of many people in the world who have been struggling to eradicate international terrorism.

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a global counter-terrorism strategy, and on the basis of that, we will continue to work together with Member States of the United Nations to completely eradicate global terrorism.”

Bolivia set to sue Chile over lost territory

Bolivia has never forgotten about the territory on the Pacific coast that it once owned but lost to Chile as a result of a war in 1879.   On Wednesday March 23, Bolivian President Evo Morales said that his country is now willing to take Chile to international court in order to regain the lost area.

As part of the treaty signed with Chile at the end of the War of the Pacific from 1879 to 1884, Bolivia lost a region of the Atacama Desert on the Pacific coastline.  Bolivia then became a landlocked country and has wanted to regain the territory ever since.  Each year on the anniversary of the loss of the region Bolivia observes something called the “Day of the Sea,” in which the people remember the day the country lost it’s only coastline. 

President Morales brought up the topic again on the 132nd anniversary of losing the coastline when he said that Bolivia should now take the dispute to an international court.

“The fight for our maritime claim, which has marked our history for 132 years, now should include another fundamental element: to go before international tribunals and organizations, demanding in lawfulness and fairness a free and sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean,” Morales said.

Bolivia hopes that an international court would rule in favor of returning the territory it once lost to Chile.  However, President Morales also said that Bolivia will not stop direct communication with Chile on the issue.

The War of the Pacific began because both Bolivia and Chile wanted the rights to the territory between the 23rd and 26th parallels on the Pacific coast.  The area was rich in valuable mineral resources, especially sodium nitrate.  A pre-war agreement stated that the border was drawn at the 24th parallel, and that Chile could share the export taxes gained from Bolivia’s territory.  This treaty was later revised, and Chile agreed to give up its share of export taxes while Bolivia promised not to raise taxes on Chilean businesses in Bolivia for 25 years.  In 1878, Bolivia broke its pact and tried to raise the taxes.  This led to the war in 1879 in which Chile invaded the area and went on to win the war.

“Bolivia was basically cut off from its access to the Pacific, and ever since then they have tried in one way or another to reverse this,” said Peter Klaren, professor of history and international affairs at The George Washington University.  “It is an old wound that has never healed.”

This is one of several territorial disputes currently going on in Latin America.  The Falkland Islands of the coast of Argentina is a self-governing British territory.  Britain established its rule on the islands in 1833, yet Argentina believes the islands should be a part of the country.  Argentina invaded in 1982, but was defeated by British troops in the Falklands war.  The state of Acre in Brazil is another disputed area.  The region was once a part of Bolivia with a large Brazillian population that was basically independent of Bolivia.  When Bolivia tried to gain control of the area in 1899, the population revolted in what was known as the Acre Revolution.  The Treaty of Petropolis was signed in 1903, which gave the region to Brazil.

Cuba jails American contractor, Carter visits

Cuba has sentenced American contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for work the country believes posed a threat to the government.  This week, Former United States President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba to meet with Gross, as well as with current President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel.

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, claims he was helping members of the Jewish population in Cuba gain internet access.  Cuba has stated that the goal of his work was to “undermine the government,” according to CNN.com.

On Wednesday March 30, Carter visited Gross in prison and asked the Cuban government to grant his freedom.

“I had a chance to meet with Alan Gross, a man I believe to be innocent of any serious threat to the Cuban government or the Cuban people,” Carter said.  “My hope is that he also might soon be given his own freedom.”

During his three-day visit, Carter also met with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and discussed the issue of the five Cubans in the U.S. who were put in jail for espionage.  Carter said that he did not intend to try to propose an exchange of prisoners, but he believes that the Cuban prisoners should also be freed.

“I think the holding of the so-called Cuban five is unwarranted,” Carter said.  “I did not come here with the idea of a swap.”

On Tuesday March 29, Carter also met with current Cuban President Raul Castro.  The main topics of the meeting were “current international issues, the situation in Cuba and the United States and relations between the two nations,” according to Granma.  Raul Castro spoke about Cuba’s willingness to communicate with the U.S., but with “with absolute respect for the island’s independence and sovereignty.”

Carter said that he thinks the relations between the two nations can improve with the freeing of each nation’s prisoners and if the U.S. lifts the trade barrier and takes Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.  Carter added that the Cuban economic reforms are important and he hoped political change will come as well, giving “complete freedom for all Cuban people for speech and for assembly and for travel.”

Obama visits Latin America

When Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America, he and the whole world knew that there was no time to wait to start making changes. Besides all the problems the country was facing economically, one subject continued to gain the disapproval of many people around the world; the way America known to handle its foreign politics.

For many years the U.S. was hated by other countries, especially the Arabic nations who resented U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. The way America used to treat the other countries is appointed by specialists as one of the biggest reasons, if not, the only reason, to explain why the North American country is so disliked around the world. In 2009 President Obama gave the speech that may enter history as the speech that changed the disturbed relations between the U.S. and the Arabic and Muslim countries. The “Cairo Speech” is, without a doubt, one of the main acts made by the Democratic President.From Flickr

On March 19, 2011 the same man who once gave the “Cairo Speech” will start his first official visit to Latin America. President Obama will travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, making a stop in each capital city as well as Rio in Brazil. Obama’s first official visit has been viewed by the local governments and specialists as one of the biggest political events of this decade.

Obama has the duty to try to reestablish the influence the U.S. used to have in the region, an influence that was not achieved by cooperation or dialogue; it was achieved by the simple need of the dollars the smaller countries used to have. For many years Latin America was treated as the backyard and did not receive the right attention it needed, and now, when the sub-continent is starting to show the world its power, the U.S. government seeks the influence it once had.

The American President will have a busy schedule, including meetings with heads of states, executives, CEO’s, investors and politicians. In Brazil, he will sign new trade agreements, revise others and start negotiations for other agreements. He will also discuss with President Rousseff how Brazil can help the U.S. government deal with countries that are not friendly with it, such as Venezuela.

“This is the first time that a bilateral dialogue starts in the highest level, with the American President travelling to Latin America,” said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazilian Institute on the Wodrow Wilson Center.

In Chile, President Obama will meet for the first time with President Sebastian Piñera to discuss greater bilateral and regional cooperation. Chile is one of the closest partners of the U.S. in Latin America and has quickly become a regional leader in the area of nuclear security, clean energy and crisis management. In El Salvador, President Obama will meet with President Mauricio Funes and will emphasize the “tight links” between the two countries, which are cemented by the large number of Salvadorans in the United States and the economic activity that they contribute to creating.

It is undeniable that the United States is dying to improve relations with its Latin America neighbors, especially because it needs to improve the trade balance that has become uneven with many countries of the region.  Brazil once relied on the U.S. as its biggest commercial partner, but the U.S. has slipped to Brazil’s second biggest partner after China. To regain these spots, create others, improve cooperation with older partners and try to compete with the rise of the BRIC are the challenges President Obama will have to face in order to save the biggest economy in the world from collapsing.

Raul Castro takes over Communist Party

For the first time since it’s creation in 1965, the Communist Party of Cuba has a new leader.  As of April 19, 2011, Raul Castro replaced his brother Fidel as First Secretary, the party’s highest position.

Raul Castro was chosen during the final session of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party, the first meeting in 14 years.  Cuba’s current Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura was also elected as Second Secretary of the party, according to the Cuban News Agency, www.ain.cu.   The size of the Politburo was also cut from 24 members to 15.

Raul Castro became the President of Cuba in 2008, but his brother Fidel still maintained the highest position in the Communist Party in Cuba, the only official party recognized in Cuba.  Fidel announced earlier this month that he had resigned from his position as First Secretary of the party five years ago, although that was surprising news to people in Cuba.  The transition was made official on April 19, and marks the end of Fidel’s leadership in Cuba since he founded the party over 55 years ago.

President Raul Castro is 79 years old while Vice President Ventura is 80.  Raul Castro has said that it is time for “ a systematic rejuvenation of the whole chain of party and administrative posts,” reported cnn.com.  In a speech at the inauguration meeting of the party, Castro said he believes it is time to limit the amount of time that political and state officers can hold their positions, suggesting a maximum of two five years terms.

The problem is “Cuba’s leadership had failed to prepare a younger generation to take over, leaving the country without a reserve of substitutes who are adequately prepared,” Raul Castro said.

At the Congress meeting, Castro proposed more than 300 proposals that Congress approved on economic and political issues.  They included layoffs in the public sector accompanied by expanding the private sector to create jobs for the unemployed.

Fidel Castro was also present at the session but did not speak, perhaps signaling the end of his era.