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Latin American Leaders, Chinese President Meet in Beijing

January 9, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) met with Chinese officials in Beijing on Thursday as part of a two-day summit, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping promised some $250 billion in direct investment in Latin America over the next five years.

The summit comes at a time when China seeks to amplify its economic influence in the region ahead of the United States, and when Latin American countries are increasingly looking to China for financing. Officials from the region’s left-leaning countries were on hand for the talks, including the presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

“This meeting will…give the world a positive signal about deepening cooperation between China and Latin America and have an important and far-reaching impact on promoting South-South cooperation and prosperity for the world,” Xi announced.

The strengthening bond between China — the second-largest economy in the world — and Latin America exemplified by the summit places pressure on the United States, which is one of only two countries in the Western Hemisphere, along with Canada, not to be a member of CELAC.

Commerce between China and Latin America has dramatically increased over the last decade, leaping from $10 billion in 2000 to over $250 billion in 2013. China pledged over $80 billion in loans to Latin American countries last July, during Xi’s diplomatic tour of the region.

Following Thursday’s meetings, President Nicolas Maduro announced that he received $20 billion in investment in a pledge from his Chinese counterpart, though representatives of Xi’s administration have yet to confirm. It is not yet clear whether the pledge constitutes an extension of Venezuela’s prior loans-for-oil agreement with China, or if it is a new agreement entirely. The Venezuelan president had arrived in China — the Latin American country’s main creditor — ahead of the CELAC summit for what he referred to as “a very important tour to take on new projects, given the circumstances of falling income that our country faces.” He is expected to visit several OPEC countries after leaving China.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexican state oil company Pemex announced that it plans to exchange oil with the U.S., potentially marking the first time the normally self-sufficient country will import crude from the U.S. in years.
  • The U.S. assistant secretary of state will travel to Cuba at the end of the month for talks on immigration and normalizing diplomatic relations, marking the highest ranking diplomat to travel to the U.S. in decades.
  • The U.S. selected a portion of Puerto Rico’s northeast coast and the island of Culebra as “habitat focus areas” that will receive additional resources as part of a federal conservation program

Caribbean

  • The U.S. is urging Haiti’s government to move forward with elections and avoid one-man rule by President Michel Martelly ahead of Monday, when most of the island nation’s legislators’ terms will expire.
  • While at least 25 of the 53 listed political prisoners were freed from Cuba on Thursday, neither President Barack Obama nor President Raul Castro commented on the release, adding to broader questions regarding resumed diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Central America

  • The planned Nicaragua canal project will create 50,000 jobs, half of which will got to Nicaraguans, according to a report on the HKND Group website — the Chinese company that will build and operate the trans-oceanic waterway.
  • Honduras has three times as many private security agents as police officers, according to the National Autonomous University of Honduras’ Violence Observatory, many of whom are unregistered and may not follow mandated police supervision.

Andes

  • During his current visit to China, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced Thursday that China will invest over $20 billion to help Venezuela’s flagging economy, though details of the investment still remain unclear.
  • Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was convicted of corruption on Thursday for funneling millions of public funds in his 2000 re-election campaign, adding eight years to the 25-year sentence he is already serving and marking his fifth conviction since his 2007 arrest.
  • A Bolivian police officer claims a Venezuelan diplomat he stopped for potentially driving drunk bit off a part of his nose, while the diplomat says the police officer first punched him in the jaw, with both accusations seemingly supported by television images that captured the unusual encounter.

Southern Cone

  • Authorities in Uruguay found what appeared to be a simulated explosive device near a complex containing Israel’s Embassy during a routine check on Thursday, leading to mandatory evacuations.
  • Debates regarding public health have flared up in Argentina following the death of a child in the Qom Indian community who suffered from Tuberculosis and malnutrition.

Image: YouTube

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