Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cuba's Castro Adresses Community of Latin American and Carribbean States, Cuba Challenges Latin America to Make Strides on Health, Education - VOA | Venezuelan Leader to Press for Puerto Rican Independence - WSJ: "They are struggling in their own countries and don't have much credibility outside of Venezuela or Argentina..." - Crises Squeeze Two Latin Leaders - WSJ | Argentina on the Brink - NYTimes.com

Cuba's Castro Adresses Community of Latin American and Carribbean States

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Cuban President Raul Castro has called on leaders of Latin American and Caribbean States to work together on regional problems.Castro spoke Tuesday in Havana at a gathering of all Western Hemisphere nations, except the United States and Canada. He gave the keynote speech as head of the host nation for the summit. The theme for this year's summit is fighting poverty, inequality and hunger. According to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 28...

Cuba Challenges Latin America to Make Strides on Health, Education

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Latin Americans Pledge to Respect Cuba's Form of Government 

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Latin American leaders backed the right of all countries in the region to choose their own political systems on Wednesday, a victory for Cuba as the only one-party state in the western hemisphere. Cuba is hosting a summit of 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC), which agreed in a declaration to “fully respect the inalienable right of every state to choose its political system.” Criticizing U.S. antagonism toward Cuba as a Cold War anachronism,...


» Venezuelan Leader to Press for Puerto Rican Independence
27/01/14 17:17 from Mike Nova's Shared Newslinks
mikenova shared this story . Updated Jan. 26, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET It was an obsession for Cuban leader Fidel Castro —freeing Puerto Rico, the self-governing U.S. commonwealth southeast of Cuba, of what he called American colonialism....

WSJ

LATIN AMERICA NEWS
Venezuelan Leader to Press for Puerto Rican Independence
Maduro to Take Up Castro's Cause at Regional Summit

By JUAN FORERO
Updated Jan. 26, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET
It was an obsession for Cuban leader Fidel Castro —freeing Puerto Rico, the self-governing U.S. commonwealth southeast of Cuba, of what he called American colonialism.

"It fit into his world view and criticism of Washington's imperialism in Latin America," said Michael Shifter, president of Washington's Inter-American Dialogue policy group. "But by the late 1980s, this had faded as an issue."

But now, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who has built close ties with Mr. Castro and his brother, Cuban President Raúl Castro, says he will take up the cause at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Havana on Tuesday. 

"It's an embarrassment that Latin America and the Caribbean in the 21st century still have colonies," he said last week in Caracas. "Let the imperial elites of the U.S. say whatever they want."

But independence for Puerto Rico, which was handed over by Spain after the Spanish-American war, has never gotten much traction. In a 2012 referendum, 61% voted for statehood and only 5% for independence.

Months before that vote, René Pérez Joglar of the popular Puerto Rican band Calle 13 met with Argentina's president, Cristina Kirchner, to ask for support for the independence movement.

Last week, she alluded to the meeting and said "we will do it."

Mr. Shifter said lobbying by Mr. Maduro and Mrs. Kirchner, though, isn't likely to have much resonance.


"They are struggling in their own countries and don't have much credibility outside of Venezuela or Argentina," he said. "I don't think this will give a major boost to the movement." 

See more: 

» OAS Head Arrives At Regional Summit In Cuba As Observer
28/01/14 18:10 from Latino Voices on HuffingtonPost.com
HAVANA (AP) — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States arrived in Cuba on Monday to attend a regional summit, in an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc. Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chi...

» Cuba’s Fidel Castro Meets With CELAC Leaders in Havana
28/01/14 13:03 from Caribbean Journal
TweetAbove: Cuba’s Fidel Castro with Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (Photo: ACN Cuba) By the Caribbean Journal staff Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro held meetings with several of the regional leaders visiting Havana this week for t... 

Cuba’s Fidel Castro Meets With CELAC Leaders in Havana

» Castro: región debe defenderse de transnacionales
28/01/14 12:24 from Metro - Últimas noticias
LA HABANA (AP) — Sin importar si los países de América Latina sean diversos o sus gobiernos de...

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Crises Squeeze Two Latin Leaders

LATIN AMERICA NEWS




Crises Squeeze Two Latin Leaders

Argentina, Venezuela Face Their Most Acute 

Economic Crises in a Decade 

Jan. 26, 2014 7:53 p.m. ET










BUENOS AIRES—The leaders of Argentina and Venezuela were set to attend a conference in Cuba to debate Puerto Rican independence on Tuesday, as their countries faced their most acute economic crises in a decade.
Their trips—coming as currencies plummet and uncertainty about burgeoning economic troubles grow—seemed to underscore for many Argentines and Venezuelans the erratic governance that economists say have left both countries struggling.
The government of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and her Venezuelan counterpart and ally Nicolás Maduro partly devalued their currencies last week, sending shudders across Latin America, and both administrations have blamed conspiracies for their economic woes. Argentina's peso tumbled the most since the country's 2001 default; basic goods in Venezuela are scarce.
On Saturday, Mrs. Kirchner landed in Havana three days before the start of a gathering of Latin American leaders hosted by Cuban President Raúl Castro.
"Fidel invited me to lunch," she said in a statement issued Sunday soon after her meal with the president's brother and co-founder of the Communist state. "Very good food," she told reporters after the meal.
Venezuela's leader, Mr. Maduro, greets supporters Sunday in Caracas. Reuters
Mrs. Kirchner and Mr. Maduro have expressed support for the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico's small independence movement. Mr. Maduro said he would propose that the island become the 34th member of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the body of countries meeting in Havana to discuss commercial and diplomatic matters.
"Puerto Rico is not alone in its struggle for identity, for dignity, for independence, for its future," Mr. Maduro, who was expected to arrive in Havana late Sunday night, said in a speech last week.
On the streets of Argentina and Venezuela, many asked what their leaders were doing in Cuba when they were struggling with Latin America's highest rates of inflation and the palpable fear that things could worsen when private investment is veering toward a recovering American economy.
"Cuba?" said Alberto Gómez, an Argentine army retiree. "People are traumatized by the rise of the dollar, but the government isn't talking about this. This is the only government we've had that doesn't listen to people."
Both governments, leaders of a leftist vanguard in Latin America opposed to the Obama administration, still retain a strong base of support.
"My opinion is that several businessmen are trying to weaken the government," said Bruno Pérez, a Buenos Aires sociology student. He was echoing Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof's comments that the vested interests drove the peso down last week.
In Venezuela, the Datanalisis polling firm said in December that Mr. Maduro had just over half of his countrymen's support in a poll that came days after he forced retailers to sell electronics goods at steep discounts to help fight inflation, a popular measure among the poor.
But the same polls showed only 26.5% of respondents believed the government's economic policies were helping the situation (Mr. Maduro blames an "economic war" waged by Washington and Venezuelan capitalists for the troubles).
Mrs. Kirchner, who won a landslide re-election in 2011, has seen her approval rating fall fast in recent weeks, pollsters said. About 75% of those polled by the Buenos Aires pollster Management & Fit just over a week ago thought the economy was headed in the wrong direction, and 66.5% disapproved of her handling of the economy.
Of vital concern, especially to the legions of poor in both countries. is inflation, which was 56.2% in Venezuela and approaching 30% in Argentina, according to economists whose data is used by multilateral lending agencies.
"The president is to blame for what's happening and he's off visiting Fidel," said Jesús Rodriguez, 37, a cabdriver in Venezuela. "We accept the long lines to buy a bag of flour or milk," he said. "We have just stood by as things have gotten worse."
In Argentina, Mrs. Kirchner defended her trip to Cuba amid what she said were rumors that she wouldn't attend for health reasons. In early October, she had undergone surgery to drain a blood clot near her brain. She hasn't elaborated on her health.
"You have to be angry with those who lie, not with those who believe the lies," Mrs. Kirchner said.
Mrs. Kirchner hasn't elaborated over the vague measure her aides announced last week to take pressure off the country's currency: the sale of dollars at the official 8 peso per greenback exchange rate.
Though a loosening of the currency regime, the plan carries major obstacles for Argentines: There will be a stiff 20% surcharge, and businesses are banned from buying.
Carlos Pertierra, 70, a history teacher, said the measures are unlikely to alter Argentina's economic course, mainly because the weaker currency may stoke inflation further.
"I don't see what is they are trying to do," he said. "What I see is that they take aim and point over here, and then they take aim and point over there. The government is like an unpredictable child."
Javier Corrales, an Amherst College professor who writes frequently about Latin America, said that it is possible that, like Mr. Maduro in Venezuela, Mrs. Kirchner sees strengthening ties as beneficial to her cause.
"By choosing to go to Cuba perhaps Argentina is showing precisely how serious they think the crisis is, how much she needs external advice," Mr. Corrales said. "And how much she wants that advice to stay secret."
— Ezequiel Minaya and Kejal Vyas contributed reporting from Caracas.
Write to Taos Turner at taos.turner@wsj.com and Ken Parks at ken.parks@wsj.com

Argentina on the Brink - NYTimes.com

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More than a decade after it defaulted on its foreign debts, Argentina is again facing a financial crisis caused largely by misguided government policies. The administration of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recently devalued the peso and relaxed some capital controls in an effort to preserve the country’s dwindling foreign reserves. The government is hoping that these steps will ease some of the pressure on the currency, which does not float freely against the dollar. But Argentina needs to do a lot more to address inflation and other underlying economic problems that have led investors and ordinary citizens to bet against the peso.
In the years after its painful default in 2002, which wiped out the savings of millions of people, Argentina enjoyed a fast growing economy thanks in part to the booming world demand for soybeans and other commodities the country exports. But Mrs. Kirchner squandered the recovery in recent years by increasing spending on wasteful subsidies and financing the government partly by printing pesos. As a result, inflation has shot up; independent economists estimate that consumer prices jumped 28 percent last year.
Mrs. Kirchner has also hurt the economy by picking fights with private businesses and investors. In recent years, she nationalized an oil company, an airline and pension funds. In 2011, Argentina implemented controls on how many pesos its citizens could convert into dollars, which helped create a black market for currency transactions and undermined confidence in the government’s economic policies. A recent poll showed that three-quarters of the country said the economy was headed in the wrong direction.
Government officials have begun taking some steps to correct past mistakes. The economy minister, Axel Kicillof, has been negotiating compensation for the oil company, YPF, that the government seized in 2012. And Argentina will put out a new inflation index next month to convince the International Monetary Fund to accept its official data again. While those are good first steps, Mrs. Kirchner and her aides will have to take much bolder steps to repair the damage that they have done to the economy in recent years. 

Cuba urges integration in Latin America free of US 

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A large screen shows Cuba’s President Raul Castro speaking at the opening ceremony of the CELAC Summit in Havana, Cuba on January 28, 2014.
Cuban President Raul Castro has urged cooperation between Latin American and Caribbean nations without the involvement of the United States.
“We should establish a new regional and international cooperation paradigm,” Castro said in Havana on Tuesday in his keynote speech as the head of the host nation for the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC.
CELAC was created on December 3, 2011 in Venezuela’s capital Caracas by the country’s late leader Hugo Chavez to fight US influence in the region.
CELAC consists of 33 countries in the Americas and represents nearly 600 million people. It was believed to be an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), founded in 1948, which had allegedly served Washington’s interests rather than those of the region.
The summit is centered on fighting poverty, inequality and hunger. According to the data released by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 28.2 percent of the region’s residents live in poverty and 11.3 percent in extreme poverty.
“In the context of CELAC, we have the possibility to create a model of our own making, adapted to our realities, based on the principles of mutual benefit,” Castro said.
He also censured US economic policies in the region.
“The so-called centers of power do not resign themselves to having lost control over this rich region, nor will they ever renounce attempts to change the course of history in our countries in order to recover the influence they have lost and benefit from their resources,” Castro stated.

Americas Summit Sans United States: Venezuela, Argentina To Push For Puerto Rican Independence

Taking up a cause long championed by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro plans to take up the cause of Puerto Rican independence during his stop at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana on Tuesday.
"It's an embarrassment that Latin America and the Caribbean in the 21st century still have colonies," he said last week in Caracas, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Let the imperial elites of the U.S. say whatever they want."
Puerto Rico became a self-governing commonwealth of the United states following the 1898 Spanish-American War and while the idea of an independent Puerto Rican state has never gained significant support on the island – in a 2012 referendum, just five percent voted for independence compared to 61 percent voting for statehood – the cause has been taken up by many Latin American leaders and activists.
After being asked by a member of the popular Puerto Rican reggaeton group Calle 13 for her support, Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said she would voice her favor for independence at this week’s CELAC meeting. Some analysts, however, don’t see the support of either Maduro or Fernández de Kirchner as lending much credence to the independence movement.
"They are struggling in their own countries and don't have much credibility outside of Venezuela or Argentina," Michael Shifter, president of Washington's Inter-American Dialogue policy group, told the Journal. "I don't think this will give a major boost to the movement."
Foreign ministers from 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations met Monday in the Cuban capital for the summit of Western Hemisphere countries minus the United States and Canada.
Along with Puerto Rican independence, topics of discussion included the cultivation of traditional crops like quinoa, historical disputes such as Argentina's claim to the British-controlled Falkland Islands and initiatives like promoting literacy in the region.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez says he was "deeply pleased" and the talks were characterized by an "extraordinary and permanent spirit of solution."
The secretary-general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, arrived later in the day after being invited to attend as an observer — an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc.
Insulza's chief of staff, Hugo Zela, said the OAS has no record of a secretary-general visiting Cuba.
The OAS was formed in 1948. In 2009 it ended Cuba's suspension, but Havana said it was not interested in rejoining a group it accuses of obeying Washington's interests.
"The celebration of this summit ... in Havana demonstrates Cuba's importance in the process of Latin American and Caribbean integration," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said. "Only with Cuba will our region be complete."
Also in town as an observer was U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Islanders gathered around him Monday as he toured the colonial old quarter with City Historian Eusebio Leal, who oversees the restoration of the neighborhood. Ban also stopped into a barber shop for a haircut and clapped along with singing schoolchildren.
The United Nations Development Program and other U.N. agencies "are working very closely to help the Cuban government and people to preserve this area," Ban said.
He later met with President Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, the island's most visible advocate for LGBT and women's rights as the head of the National Center for Sex Education.
"I would like to take this opportunity to symbolically give the secretary-general of the United Nations my personal commitment and that of (her sex education center) to join his campaign to end violence against women and girls," Mariela Castro said.
Some heads of state arrived early and squeezed other activities into their agenda.
Rousseff and Raul Castro presided over a ceremony launching a new port built with Brazilian financing.
The Argentine presidency released photographs of Fernández de Kirchner's lunchtime encounter the previous day with retired leader Fidel Castro and his longtime companion, Dalia Soto del Valle. Fernández also published them on her official Twitter account.


"We talked about everything, but above all a symbol of the meeting of all Latin America and the Caribbean in Havana. ... Yes, of course we talked about Hugo too. A lot. Indelible memories," her Twitter feed said.
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died of cancer last March, was a driving force behind the formation of the CELAC in 2011. He and others envisioned it as an alternative to the OAS for addressing regional concerns free of Washington's influence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014