Argentine foreign minister Jorge Taiana met with UN Sec. General Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday, arguing Great Britain’s oil exploration off the disputed Falkands (Malvinas) Islands was one in a “long chain of illegal acts.” “The oil exploration is a unilateral act in a long chain of unilateral acts that we believe are illegal, contrary to international law and which we believe must not be allowed to go forward so as to not worsen the situation,” Taiana told reporters after leaving his meeting with the UN Sec. General. Additionally, the BBC reports, Taiana asked that the UN continue to serve as a mediator to the conflict.
Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times this morning take analysis of the Argentine-British conflict deeper. According to the WSJ’s Matt Moffett, “while most Argentines are bothered by the drilling, they seem mostly resigned to it and emphatic that their government confine itself to a peaceful protest.” In October 2009, an Ibarometer survey showed some 80% of Argentines saw their claim to the Malvinas Islands as important—one of the few issues that unifies nearly all Argentines, many analysts say. But the poll indicated that only 3% saw the islands as an issue worth going to war over—something the Argentine government itself has said it seeks to avoid at all costs. Meanwhile, the Times Alexei Barrionuevo adds a different spin on just why Argentina is so upset about the beginning of British oil development off the islands, saying its mostly about jealousy. “The notion that Argentina could watch as British companies discover sizable oil deposits so close to its shores would be a crushing blow to a country already envious about the huge oil discoveries made in the past three years in neighboring Brazil,” writes Barrionuevo. The Times goes on to say that Argentina’s own lack of oil development stems from “oil companies [who] are wary of working in Argentina these days.” According to Federico Mac Dougall, an economist and analyst at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, “This is a case of a lost girlfriend. Argentina lost its girlfriend, and now she is going out with somebody else, and together they may very well strike it rich with oil.”
To other stories today:
· The Miami Herald reports that Cuban security forces have increased internal security measures, fearing protests after the death of dissident Orlando Zapata. Human rights activists on the island say between 25 and 50 opponents of the Castro regime have been arrested or were being “kept home” by security agents as the family of Zapata prepared for his burial Thursday. The Wall Street adds to reporting on the crackdown, saying many analysts believe it could now be politically unviable for the US to make new overtures to Cuba, at least in the short-term. “Opponents of the embargo,” the paper continues, “worry that Mr. Zapata's death could actually bolster the Castro regime if it serves to slam the door on more-open trade and travel.” And with its pro-embargo line, the Washington Post asks anti-embargo activists the following in the wake of Mr. Zapata’s death: “Is the new, Castro-friendly approach [of the US] working?” The Post editorializes: “As Mr. Zapata died, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was arriving in Havana for another warm reunion with the brothers -- his third in the past two years. The embarrassed Brazilian president said he ‘deeply lamented’ Mr. Zapata's death. Too bad he and other Castrophiles were not willing to speak out on his behalf before he died.”
· On the drug war in Mexico, the LA Times has two pieces this morning. The paper first examines the practice of parading those arrested in the country’s fight against cartels before the media. “The ritual is called a presentacion, Spanish for ‘presentation’ or ‘introduction,’ though no one ever shakes hands,” says the LAT. “Almost daily, one of the thousands of suspects who have been rounded up in the drug war is paraded in front of cameras, posed with seized weapons and contraband and even grilled by police officers while reporters jot down answers that are often self-incriminating.” Many human rights advocates are “appalled by the practice,” the paper continues, “saying it violates suspects' rights by exhibiting them as if they were guilty before they have even been charged.” But for the government, the “presentations” serve as a way to prove they’ve captured the individuals they claim to have—an attempt, perhaps, to build some sense of trust in security forces while at the same time feeding the desires of the country’s sensationalized “red news.” Also from the LA Times, Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed critics who say his government has gone easier on the Sinaloa cartel than others operating in the country, calling the claim “absolutely false.” This as one of the “most brutal and feared drug kingpins in Mexican history,” Gulf cartel capo Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after an ultra-secretive, private sentencing in Houston, Texas.
· A day after the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report critical of the state of democracy and human rights in Venezuela, the government of Venezuela responded. First the government’s ombudsman, Gabriela Ramirez, said the IACHR had taken many statistics out of context and used others selectively. According to Ramirez, the real data shows that human rights violations in Venezuela have actually decreased in recent years. Later, President Hugo Chavez addressed the new report directly, vowing to withdraw his country from the IACHR—a body which he called a “mafia.” Chavez went on to call the commission’s head, Argentine Santiago Canton, “pure excrement,” accusing him of tacitly backing the 2002 coup against the Chavez government.
· In Honduras, Honduras Culture and Politics reports on the removal of Gen. Romeo Vasquez, active in the June coup against then President Manuel Zelaya, as commander of the armed forces. The move was largely due to international pressure placed on the Lobo Sosa government, says RNS. Meanwhile, Zelaya himself is planning to head off on a regional tour shortly, including stopovers in Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Zelaya also addressed new corruption charges laid against him earlier in the week, saying the accusations amount to “political persecution.”
· Brazilian President Lula da Silva arrived in Haiti Thursday, proposing, as many others have, that the country’s external debt be forgiven. Lula also signed cooperation accords with President Rene Preval related to education, family-based agriculture, and other infrastructure projects. Also on Brazil, the BBC says the United States will be attempting to convince the country to support a new round of sanctions on Iran within the UN Security Council. The subject will be among those on the agenda of Sec. of State Hillary Clinton as she heads to Brasilia and other parts of the region shortly. In addition, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, William Burns, will also be making a pass through Brasilia.
· In Colombia, EFE reports that President Alvaro Uribe had a private meeting with CIA director Leon Panetta on Thursday. The subject of conversation was allegedly drug trafficking but the meeting was held “behind closed doors.”
· From AQ, a report on Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom’s visit to the UN last week and issues of impunity in the country.
· Finally, from the Guardian, CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot offers his take on the recent Latin American Unity Summit in Mexico and the decision taken there to form a new Latin America-exclusive regional body. Weisbrot writes, “The increasing independence of Latin America has been one of the most important geopolitical changes over the last decade, affecting not only the region but the rest of the world as well...An organisation without the US and Canada will be more capable of defending democracy, as well as economic and social progress in the region when it is under attack. It will also have a positive influence in helping to create a more multipolar world internationally.”