Today in Latin America
Top Story — Venezuela will withdraw its membership from the Andean Community of Nations trade pact today, due to Colombia and Peru signing free trade agreements with the U.S. in 2006. Chávez said US trade deals with Colombia and Peru had killed off the Andean trading community.
Venezuela has been a member of the Andean trade community for 38 years and announced its departure five years ago due the trade bloc’s requirements.
Although Chávez has signed new commercial agreements with the governments of Ecuador and Bolivia over the past month, he has yet to negotiate long-term deals with Peru or Colombia, the other two members states of the trade body.
To ease the transition, Venezuelan officials will extend current trade rules with Colombia and Peru for at least three months.
The expected departure has generated uncertainty amongst trade specialists in the region regarding the future of international commerce among Andean nations, which totaled about $7 billion last year.
“We’re leaving a framework that’s advanced, with rules … and we’re going to something that we don’t know what it’s going to be,” Said Luís Alberto Russián, president of the Venezuela-Colombia business chamber, according to The Washington Post. “The uncertainty affects confidence.”
But Adalid Contreras, the Secretary General of the trading body, does not think Venezuela’s move will greatly impact regional trade. Instead, Contreras invited the remaining member states to negotiate bilateral deals with Venezuela, El Universal reported.
In recent years, Chávez has championed a “Bolivarian” alternative for regional trade known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA, in Spanish) which was created by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela in 2004. It now counts six more member states including Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and several small island states in the Caribbean.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican federal police unearthed a mass grave on the outskirts of the northern city of Durango that contained over two dozen bodies.
- The Mexican Government retained an American law firm to explore filing civil charges against U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors for the numbers of firearms illegally entering Mexico.
- Alabama’s state Senate Thursday passed a measure to crackdown on illegal immigration, bringing the state closer to creating law similar to Arizona’s controversial one.
- A Cuban opposition group whose members are wives and relatives of jailed dissidents received a major human rights award Thursday from the U.S. State Department.
- Haitian President-elect Michel Martelly told the world through Twitter Thursday the final election results confirmed he was elected president in a landslide.
- Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message to Fidel Castro expressing his admiration and respect for the former leader after the 6th Cuban Communist Party Congress, and he offered Havana Beijing’s help on the “road of socialist development.”
- Three people were killed and two others wounded Wednesday in a drive-by shooting at the office of a private security firm in the Guatemalan capital, authorities said.
- A recent study by Germany’s University of Hohenheim found that over the last 10 years fair trade farmers in Nicaragua became poorer, compared to conventional farmers.
- Bolivia has relaxed its hostility to U.S. involvement in Latin America by accepting help to combat the country’s growing drug trafficking problem.
- Two children died and their father was seriously wounded after stepping on a landmine on a country road in the northwestern Colombian province of Antioquia, the military said.
- A missing witness to the death of a Roman Catholic bishop during Argentina’s “Dirty War” was found Thursday, after being taken hostage and warned about testifying.
- A small plane crashed in the Brazilian Amazon, killing seven people. Brazil’s federal transportation agency said eight others survived.
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