Weekly News Summary: Jan. 16 – Jan. 22, 2010

TOP STORY: HAITI

The earthquake in Haiti continued to dominate headlines on Latin America this week. The following list provides a sample of some of the most important developments.

  • Little disaster relief has reached the poor neighborhoods encircling Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, leaving residents to fend for themselves, NPR reports.
  • The Obama administration has extended Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the U.S. before the Jan. 12 earthquake struck, including undocumented workers. The decision has Haitians Americans, neighborhood associations, church leaders and others scrambling to spread the word to potential applicants, according to the Miami Herald.
  • The non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders accused the United States military in a press release of prioritizing U.S. military shipments to Haiti’s airport at the expense of supply shipments to other organizations. A “cargo plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night despite repeated assurances of its ability to land there,” the release said.
  • Criticism from Doctors Without Borders and other groups has prompted the U.S. government to guarantee landing slots for humanitarian aid, the Inter-Press Service reports.
  • U.S. Southern Command, which currently runs Haiti’s airport, said a news item on its Web site dated Jan. 17 that “On a typical day, the Port-au-Prince airport lands about three aircraft. Since we landed Wednesday, over 600 aircraft have landed and taken off.”

ARGENTINA

President Fernández de Kirchner canceled a scheduled trip to China in order to address the conflict that has erupted over her firing of Central Bank president Martín Redrado, according to Bloomberg News.

Kirchner tried to fire Redrado on January 7, when he refused to back a decree that would tap $6.6 billion in reserves to pay the national debt, but the courts have blocked her move.

BRAZIL

Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega revised the country’s economic growth projection for 2009 upward to 5.2%. He said the government expected the creation of 1.6 million jobs in 2010, according to Brazilian daily A Folha de São Paulo.

CHILE

The Memory and Human Rights Museum opened its doors in Santiago last Tuesday and has been drawing crowds every day since then. An estimated 1,500 people per day have visited the museum, which documents the abuses of  Chile’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship, according to Thursdays review by the Santiago Times.

ECUADOR

The Chevron Corporation asked a United States court to dismiss Ecuador’s attempt to obstruct an international arbitration panel to decide who should pay damages in a $27 billion lawsuit about environmental clean-up, according to Bloomberg News.

Ecuador filed a lawsuit that claimed Chevron tried to move the case to arbitration since the case was transferred from Ecuadoran courts in 2003.

Another lawsuit, filed by residents of Ecuador’s Amazon basin against Chevron, is the subject of the 2009 documentary, Crude.

HONDURAS

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelayas will leave Honduras next week when president-elect Porfirio Lobo takes office, according to Reuters.

Zelaya, who took refuge in the Brazilian embassy after reentering Honduras in September, is expected to fly to the Dominican Republic next Wednesday when Lobo takes office.

MEXICO

A prison riot in the northern Mexican state of Durango left 23 inmates dead on Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The riot occured in a prison in the city of Durango and allegedly started after a fight broke out between rival drug-trafficking groups.

PANAMA

Three men allegedly planned to kidnap Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli, according to the BBC.

Two of the men were Martinelli’s bodyguards and the third was Puerto Rican man who allegedly planned to hand Martinelli over to “some unofficial group,” according to Trade and Industry Minister Roberto Henríquez.

The opposition party, Frenadeso, cast doubt of the validity of the kidnapping and said it might be a publicity stunt.

PARAGUAY

Fidel Zavala, the wealthy Paraguayan rancher kidnapped on October 15 by the Paraguayan People’s Army, was released on Sunday after over three months in captivity, according to the Washington Post.

The Washington Post called the release a major victory for Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo, who had vowed earlier to bring the kidnappers to justice.

PERU

Heavy metal icons Metallica plan to play a concert in Lima, Peru for the first time in their 29-year career, according to CBS news.

“It’s still really great to know that there are places that we have never played before,” said Metallica vocalist and guitarist James Hetfield.

URUGUAY

The extradition proceedings of Uruguayan colonel Manuel Cordero will be delayed yet again as he is transported to a hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, according to Uruguayan daily El País.

In August 2008, the Argentine Supreme Court ruled to extradite Cordero for crimes against humanity committed against Argentine and Uruguayan citizens under Plan CONDOR.  That decision has yet to be implemented on account of Cordero’s poor health.

VENEZUELA

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez seized control of Éxito, a French-Colombian owned supermarket chain, after he accused the company of breaking Venezuelan law on price controls, according to the BBC.

Chavez nationalized the company and threatened other companies with nationalization if they increased their prices. Éxito is one of more than 200 stores accused by the Venezuelan government of raising prices during the countries recent currency devaluation.

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