Nicaragua: Remarkable progress made in reducing undernourishment

Source:  TeleSUR
August 27 2015

In comparison with the population going hungry ten years ago, the improvement for the country and its people under their Sandinista government has been really momentous

un wfp logoAccording to the United Nations’ World Food Program, some 795 million people, about one in nine people on earth, do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. The vast majority live in third world countries, where about 13.5 percent of the population is undernourished.

Earlier this year, three UN agencies dealing with the issue of food security, acknowledged the progress made by Latin American countries in recent years. In the region, the percentage of the population that was undernourished diminished from 13.9 percent in 1990-1992 to less than 5 percent in 2014-2016, which means that the number of people starving dropped from 58 million to less than 27 million.

Progress has been most remarkable in Nicaragua

One of the countries where this progress has been most remarkable is Nicaragua, where back in 1990-1992, over half of the population, 54.4 percent was undernourished. Twenty years later, by 2012-2014, the percentage of undernourished Nicaraguans had diminished to 16.8 percent – a reduction of 69.1 percent, one of the highest in the world.

A report from October, 2005 quotes UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s representative Loy Van Crowder warning about the seriousness of the food security situation in the country. According to FAO’s estimates, about 27 percent of the people were undernourished, and about the same proportion of children aged 6 to 9 showed growth problems because of this – a figure that placed Nicaragua just above Haiti and at the same level as other poor third world countries such as Mongolia, Sudan, Kenya and Cambodia.

The Sandinista Front

Back then, Van Crowder explained that, “one of Nicaragua’s main problems was that it doesn’t have access to food production in spite of it being of good quality, many people live in a cycle of self-subsistence, they consume what they produce, and some months they don’t produce enough”. This was shortly before the Sandinista Front returned to government in January 2007 after 17 years of neoliberal policies. Since then things have steadily improved.

A few years after Van Crowder’s 2005 comments, FAO’s figures for undernourishment in Nicaragua for the period 2006-2008 had gone down to 22 percent. “The only country that comes close to achieving the goals of the World Food Summit as well as the First Millennium Development Goal with respect to a reduction of the relative and absolute number of undernourished people [in Central America] is Nicaragua,” the organization stated.

Nicaragua’s National Plan for Human Development

In June 2008, the Sandinista Government presented to various sectors of society a first draft of its National Plan for Human Development with two main goals: To lift Nicaragua out of poverty and to do so through a more just, alternative path and a more democratic power structure. The plan revolved around sustainable development, the restitution of people’s basic rights and the fight to reduce poverty. Under constant review since 2008, the plan has become more concrete and more far-reaching. Its latest version, covering the period 2012-2016, provides the current overall framework for the country’s development agenda.

In May 2009, FAO’s representative in Managua, Gero Vaagt, noted that “the Nicaraguan Government prioritizes the issue of food and nutritional security, which can be seen in the initiatives implemented at the national level among small farmers, poor rural families and the most vulnerable sectors of society in order to improve the food and nutritional situation of the Nicaraguan families.”

daniel ortega 3Vaagt also highlighted Nicaragua’s and President Daniel Ortega’s (photo) interest to promote food and nutrition issues during the country’s pro tempore presidency in the Central American Integration System in 2009. Key concepts internationally promoted by FAO were adopted in Nicaragua’s Law 693 on Food Security and Sovereignty passed by the National Assembly that same year.

The law establishes that it is the responsibility of the State to implement public policies that facilitate timely and sufficient access to safe, nutritious foods by the country’s population. It also links policies to fight poverty and unemployment, as well as guaranteeing the country’s people access to land, water and financial credit, to policies aimed at improving agricultural production as well as policies aimed at promoting healthy nutritional habits among the population.

The law treats aspects such as gender equality, sustainable development based on peasant production and environmental policies and respect for cultural food diversity and identity as intimately related to the fight against hunger and appoints a Special Attorney on Food and Nutritional Security and Sovereignty.

A National System for Food and Nutritional Security

Law 693 also establishes a National System for Food and Nutritional Security (SINASSAN) in order to enforce the right to food “as a fundamental human right that includes the right not to experience hunger and to be protected against it, to an adequate nutrition and to food and nutritional sovereignty”. SINASSAN operates at all levels, from the national level down to the municipalities and is subjected to the authority of the National Commission for Food and Nutritional Security which in turn depends on the Presidency of the Republic.

An expression of the philosophy is the FAO-backed Nicaraguan initiative Special Program of Food Security (PESA) – a program highlighted among 62 other programs supported by the organization worldwide because it not only includes the country’s productive sectors but also expands the program taking into account issues such as health and education.

Nicaraguan’s right to food

Both the National Plan for Human Development and the Law on Food Security and Sovereignty are powerful instruments making possible policies that aim to ensure Nicaraguan’s right to food. Among these policies one can mention the following:

  • Support for small-scale food production and women’s empowerment such as the Zero Hunger Program;
  • Guaranteeing secure property titles to rural families to protect their rights to land, especially favoring women;
  • Cooperative and State-sponsored banks such as CARUNA and PRODUZCAMOS offering fair credit to rural families;
  • Purchases of food by the State in order to counter speculative hoarding in the economy;
  • De-privatization of public services, especially the education system where children are guaranteed a meal every day;
  • Social policies like Love for the Very Smallest supporting families at risk of exclusion;
  • Dispersion of food production all over the country in order to reduce vulnerability of food production to drought and floods.
  • Promotion of the various regions’ traditional culinary cultures.
  • Guaranteeing a nationwide disaster prevention system and, when necessary, relief to populations affected by natural catastrophes.

The help of ALBA and Petrocaribe

Policies such as these must be regarded in a context of broad economic growth, the fight against unemployment, strengthening of the public sector, infrastructure investment, in sum, of reconstructing much of what neoliberal policies (and the imperialist-backed terrorist war of the 1980’s) had destroyed. All this has been possible thanks to the invaluable help of cooperation and trade via ALBA and PETROCARIBE, mechanisms which give the country the necessary room to maneuver in order to negotiate the turbulent waters of the volatile Capitalist World Market. In sum, broad anti-neoliberal policies are a key ingredient in order to achieve food security and sovereignty.

In July, 2014, Mr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, director of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFDA) visited Matagalpa and the Atlantic Coast to get a first-hand view of the successful experiences of local communities in the fight against hunger. “For us, as an organization, Nicaragua is an example of how a country can move from low to medium-size incomes, which can be seen by the goals it has achieved, and we at IFDA will replicate this experience in other Latin American countries,” he said.

Achieving the Millennium Goal of reducing hunger by half

Almost a year later, three UN agencies: FAO, IFDA and the World Food Program (WFP) reached the conclusion that Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia, Panama and Surinam had accomplished the Millennium Goal of reducing hunger by half. Most of those countries had followed anti-neoliberal policies similar to those of Nicaragua in recent years.

“We have learned from Latin America that social protection helps a lot,” said FAO director José Graziano da Silva at the presentation of the joint report of the UN organs on the matter. In March this year, FAO and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), joined in the common goal of eliminating hunger by 2025.

It remains the case that 15 percent of Nicaraguans still go to bed hungry each night, but each year that number declines. In comparison with the population going hungry ten years ago, the improvement for the country and its people under their Sandinista government has been really momentous. The main lesson from Nicaragua’s experience is the importance of a sovereign food policy along with its strategic alliances as a member of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA).

The region has come a long way since the 2008 “Food for Life” Summit held in Managua in May 2008. Addressing the crisis of food security in the region back then, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said,”I feel no confidence that countries, apart from ourselves and those seated around this table, can deal with this problem completely seriously. I don’t see the Americans helping us, nor do I see the Europeans helping us.”

Seven years on, despite climate change and the continuing global economic recession, people in Nicaragua, thanks to ALBA and Petrocaribe, are finally in sight of eliminating hunger completely.

Source:  ALBA and Nicaragua – The Fight Against Hunger  TeleSUR

Dominica President Thanks ALBA for Aid in Wake of Deadly Storm

Source:  TeleSUR
30 August 2015

Tropical storm Erika has killed dozens and destroyed island infrastructure setting Dominica “back by 20 years,” says Prime Minister Skerrit.

A plane carrying humanitarian aid took off from Venezuela toward the small Caribbean island of Dominica Saturday, where the tropical storm Erika has left 27 people dead and over 30 missing.

venezuela aid to dominicaThe emergency aid from the ALBA alliance of nations will go towards helping the victims of the storm and supporting the government as it attempts to recover from the devastating impact to the country’s infrastructure.

roosevelt skerrit 2ALBA, whose main headquarters lie in Caracas, Venezuela, airlifted the aid from the capital Caracas to the Dominica capital of Roseau, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit expressed “great gratitude” for the show of solidarity.

Venezuela to send more aid to Dominica

“The situation can be very difficult, but we are comforted by the fact that we have friends who are able to assist and share the little that they have with Dominica at this time,” Prime Minister Skerrit told teleSUR.

Thanks to President Maduro and the people of Venezuela

“I really want to thank President Maduro, the government of Venezuela and the people of Venezuela for this extraordinary effort which they are making to assist us,” added Skerrit.

The Prime Minister stated that the island has seen great loss of lives and major destruction of homes and infrastructure, including the country’s main airport.

“The destruction has really set Dominica back by 20 years,” he said. “In a few hours, it has wiped away the tremendous successes we have had in the last 15 years.”

The storm has also wiped out roads and bridges, leaving several communities isolated. The government has flown in via helicopter food, water and medical supplies as well as people to assist these communities, said Skerrit.

The worst storm in decades

Tropical storm Erika hit Dominica Thursday, dumping over 10 inches of rain on the island in six hours, in what has been called the worst storm in decades.

According to teleSUR correspondent Alison Kentish, the island’s many mountains created landslides and burst river banks, leading to the considerable damage.

Kentish also points out that Roseau is the only capital city in the Eastern Caribbean with a river flowing through it. After the storm, the river overflowed, destroying one of the bridges leading into the city and completely washing away one school.

Communication across the island has also been affected with telephone poles down, while various parts of the island reportedly have no electricity or potable water.

Source:  Dominica President Thanks ALBA for Aid in Wake of Deadly Storm  TeleSUR

Cuban medical brigade departs for Dominica to treat victims of Erika

Source: granma
August 31, 2015

Dr. Norberto Ramos, leading the brigade, noted that they have been equipped with all the necessary medicine and equipment to deal with the effects of the intense rain and flooding on the island

cuban medical brigade off to dominica

Photo: AIN

A 16-strong Cuban medical brigade including doctors, nurses and epidemiologists, together with three construction engineers and two electrical engineers, left for the Commonwealth of Dominica this Monday, where they will join the efforts to assist the victims of Tropical Storm Erika.

Shortly after 7.00 a.m., the Aero Caribbean ATR 72 aircraft took off from the Jose Martí International Airport in Havana, carrying 1.2 tons of medicines, supplies and disposable materials for assistive care, together with the personnel.

Dr. Norberto Ramos, leading the brigade, told AIN that the team who will attend to the population in disaster areas following the onslaught of the tropical storm had been put together in just 12 hours.

He noted that among those leaving for Dominica are specialists who traveled to West Africa earlier this year to combat Ebola, as well as the earthquakes in Chile and Nepal.

The brigade has been equipped with all the necessary medicine and equipment to deal with the effects of the intense rain and flooding on the island, the doctor added.

Cuba has always been there when needed and this is no exception

Yosvany Vera, one of the members of the brigade, stated that he will work with the same level of dedication as he did in Sierra Leone up until five months ago, where he participated in the fight against Ebola.

Cuba has always been there when needed and this is no exception, he added, while admitting that every mission is a worry for his family. However, his experience in Africa demonstrated the adequate measures taken to limit the risks of contracting diseases in disaster situations.

For Dr. Gisela Hernandez, an anesthesiologist at the Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital in the capital, today is a proud moment and reinforces Cuba’s standing in regards to international solidarity.

The satisfaction of saving as many lives as possible

While she notes that her family was not expecting her to receive another mission so soon, having returned from Nepal just a few weeks ago, they are sure that she will again return with the satisfaction of having completed her mission to save as many lives as possible.

The medical brigade, composed of nine doctors and seven nurses, including five specialized in obstetric care, will join the 11 Cuban doctors of the Integrated Health Program already working in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

The group forms part of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, which since its creation has served in various countries across the world, including during the recent Ebola outbreak in Western Africa.

According to press agencies, rescue workers have been attempting since Sunday to reach several communities that were isolated by floods and landslides in the wake of Erika, which left 20 dead and more than 50 missing.

pm skerrit addresses the nation on erikaSpeaking to the nation, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit explained that the designation of special disaster areas was made following the loss of life and damage to property caused by Erika, which hit the island August 26-27 with over five hours of heavy rain and winds of 85 kilometers per hour, causing flooding and landslides.

Source:  Cuban medical brigade departs for Dominica to treat victims of Erika  Granma

Dominica after Erika: Destruction of Epic Proportion says PM Skerrit

Source:  TeleSUR

28 August 2015

tropical storm erika damages dominica 2Dominica is reeling Friday from what Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit described as destruction “of epic proportion” on his island in the wake of Tropical Storm Erika, Caribbean news agency Cana reports. Skerrit is appealing to residents though his Facebook account to help with the clean-up.

The storm killed at least 20 people, with more still missing, the Caribbean island’s Works and Communications Minister, Ian Pinard, told CBS News. Cana reports rescue teams from Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago and “the French islands” are due to arrive in Dominica Friday.

tropical storm erika damages dominica 1Hurricane Erika In Pictures – Click to go to gallery (opens new window)

Florida’s State Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as the storm moves north with 97-kilometer-per-hour winds. However, as it has hit Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola — home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti — Friday, Reuters reports that it is unlikely it will arrive in Florida as a hurricane.

Still, the timing will bring back bad memories for many in the United States: Erika hits the region exactly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina hit the southern states of the U.S., destroying lives and homes.

Click here to go to teleSUR’s Katrina anniversary special

Dominica Reeling

Damage to Dominica was so great, according to teleSUR Caribbean correspondent Alison Kentish, because the island has many mountains, which created landslides and burst river banks. Kentish points out the capital Roseau is unusual in the Eastern Caribbean for having a river run through it. After the storm, the river overflowed, destroying one of the bridges leading into the city and completely washing away one school.

Kentish reports some communities in the south of the island have been cut off from the rest of the island by landslides and that communication has also been impacted, with telephone poles downed. There is no electricity or water in various parts the island, she reports.

Prime Minister Skerrit flew back from Saint Lucia and was initially unable to get back as the island’s main airport was closed.

pm skerrit addresses the nation on erika

Prime Minister addressing the nation

Now he has returned, he is rapidly updating people through Facebook, announcing Friday, “I am on my way to Petite Savanne,” the most cut-off part of the island.

Source:  20 Dead from ‘Epic’ Tropical Storm Erika Carnage in CaribbeanTeleSUR

The Economist gives voice to those who have already failed the Ecuadorean people

Source: TeleSUR
By: Joe Emersberger

28 August 2015

The Economist: Giving voice to those who have already failed the Ecuadorean people.

If the Economist valued democracy at all, it would not regurgitate the talking points of the people who want a coup.

map of ecuadorMany will read a recent Economist article about Ecuador (“Scraping the barrel”) and wrongly assume that they’ve been brought up to speed about a country they seldom hear much about.

Will Ecuador turn into Latin America’s Greece?” is the ludicrous question posed beneath the title. There are so many things wrong with the following passage alone that succinctly explaining them is a challenge.

“The administration has introduced regulations that would allow it to issue electronic money and Central Bank paper. That way lies Greece, warns Abelardo Pachano, a former banker. Printing a quasi-currency risks a run on the banks by savers who fear deposits would not be returned in dollars; the Central Bank has hard-currency reserves of only $4.6 billion. Mr Correa, seeming to recognise the danger, has been cautious in implementing these measures.”

An attempt to spread panic

First, since 2007, when President Rafael Correa first took office, Ecuador’s reserves have fluctuated from $2 to $6.5 billion with no trend. One of the main reasons for holding reserves does not apply to Ecuador. It need not worry about speculative attacks on its currency because, since 2000, its currency has been the US dollar.

rafael correa 25The claim that Ecuador is printing quasi–currency is an attempt to spread panic that it is abandoning the dollar. Ecuador has introduced a system that allows people to swap US dollars for an equal value of electronic money they can store on their cellphones. It is similar to depositing cash to a bank account and then using a debit card to make purchases. Governments do not introduce “quasi-currencies” by allowing people to use debit cards. The system was introduced because so more people have cell phones in Ecuador than bank accounts. Even some news articles in Ecuador’s opposition press have clarified this a year ago.

Greece: collapse due to austerity measures forced on it

Second, Greece never issued a quasi-currency as the article could easily mislead readers to believe. Since 2010, Greece has experienced a Great Depression level of collapse because of austerity measures forced on it by the “Troika” – the IMF, European Union, European Central Bank. The recent run on Greek banks was deliberately caused by the European Central Bank. It cut liquidity to the Greek banking system to blackmail Greece into accepting continued austerity measures. Fortunately, Ecuador cannot be similarly blackmailed by the US because its banks are not supported by the Federal Reserve.

Pachano helped his government mastermind one of the most infamous private sector bailouts in Ecuadorian history

Third, vaguely describing Abelardo Pachano as a “former banker” is very disingenuous. Pachano was head of Ecuador’s central bank under the administration of Osvaldo Hurtado (1981-1984). According to Hurtado himself, Pachano helped his government mastermind one of the most infamous private sector bailouts in Ecuadorian history. It is referred to as “sucretización”.

Ecuador’s private sector (mainly banks) owed very dangerous levels of debt to foreigners in US dollars. In 1983, Hurtado’s government took responsibility for paying the private sector’s dollar denominated debt. In return, the private sector paid the Ecuadorian government in sucres – Ecuador’s national currency at the time. The government of Febres Cordero (1984-1988) further sweetened this deal for the Ecuadorian elite.

It was a classic example of socialism for the rich. By 1994, the accumulated cost of “sucretización” to the Ecuadorian state was US$4.4 billion according to a commission established by Rafael Correa’s government. That amount is equal to 25 percent of Ecuador’s GDP in 1994. The findings of the commission provided the legal basis for Ecuador’s default on a third of its public debt in 2008 – an extremely successful move that Pachano opposed at the time and was still trashing years later.

Pinoargote made many of the same allegations against Correa’s government made by the Economist

Pachano writes regularly for El Comercio, one of Ecuador’s largest newspapers. That will surprise people who believe the Economist’s claim that Correa’s government “has bullied the media into self-censorship”. The output of Ecuavisa, a private TV broadcaster, will also surprise many people. In this broadcast last year, before introducing a guest to spread alarm about electronic money, Alfredo Pinoargote quickly ran through a list of many of the same allegations against Correa’s government made by the Economist. Quite absurdly, given Pinoargote’s platform, a crackdown on freedom of expression was one of them.

The Economist closes by warning Correa that he “faces a choice”:

Does David Cameron have “permanent power” because the UK does not have term limits?

“He could persist in his bid for permanent power and risk being kicked out by the street, like his predecessors. Or he could swallow his pride, stabilise the economy and drop his re-election bid. He would then go down in history as one of Ecuador’s most successful presidents.”

The bit about “permanent power” refers to the National Assembly possibly amending the constitution to abolish term limits for all elected officials. Does the Economist, a UK based magazine, say that David Cameron has “permanent power” because the UK does not have term limits? Under the present  Ecuadorian constitution  – which was written by elected representatives shortly after Correa took office and ratified in a 2008 referendum – article 105 allows voters to subject the president to a recall referendum. The UK doesn’t allow recall referendums, doesn’t have a constitution, and still calls itself a “kingdom”. Given there are fewer democratic options available to UK voters, I wonder if the Economist would advise David Cameron to capitulate if he faced any risk of being ousted “by the street”.

Why misrepresent real success and preach the gospel of those who want a coup?

Much else has changed since the days when bankers like Abelardo Pachano put Ecuador through ruinous decades that culminated in a major economic collapse in 1999. Under the new constitution (articles 130 and 148), the National Assembly cannot dismiss the president (or vice versa) without new elections being held immediately for both the presidency and National Assembly.  The Ecuadorian elite can no longer dominate the media to the extent it once did (which is denounced as a “crackdown on freedom of expression” by the international media and establishment-friendly NGOs). South America governments have also reacted strongly against recent coups and coup attempts. Thanks in part to Wikileaks, Washington’s capacity to destabilize Correa’s government has been greatly reduced.

Correa’s government is already one of most successful in Ecuador’s history because it has rejected the neoliberal dogmas promoted by the Economist. The Center for Economic and Policy Research shows this in a very detailed assessment of Ecuador’s key economic policies since 2007.

Nevertheless, despite so much positive change, the threat of a coup cannot be dismissed. There was an attempt in 2010 in which Correa was briefly held hostage by mutinous police. If the Economist valued democracy at all, it would not regurgitate the talking points of the people who want a coup – much less tell Correa to obey a  violent minority.

has rejected the neoliberal dogmas promoted by the Economist. The Center for Economic and Policy Research shows this in a very detailed assessment of Ecuador’s key economic policies since 2007.

Nevertheless, despite so much positive change, the threat of a coup cannot be dismissed. There was an attempt in 2010 in which Correa was briefly held hostage by mutinous police. If the Economist valued democracy at all, it would not regurgitate the talking points of the people who want a coup – much less tell Correa to obey a  violent minority  .

Source:  The Economist Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrel to Attack Correa  TeleSUR

Cuban women celebrate 55th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban Women

Source:  Granma
August 24, 2015

55 anniversary of the cuban federation of womenPresident Rául Castro sent heartfelt congratulations to women across the island on the 55th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban Women’s founding (FMC).

cuban womenHis message was conveyed by the organization’s secretary general, Teresa Amarelle Boué, also a member of the Party Central Committee, during the national celebration of the anniversary in the province of Granma, which was chosen as the event’s site in recognition of the FMC’s accomplishments in the region.

The unity of women in defense of the revolution

Amarelle Boué commented that Raúl’s congratulations reinforced the commitment of Cuban women and insisted that the FMC would continue to guarantee the unity of women in the defense of the Revolution.

fidel y vilma 1Making the central remarks at the celebration was Olga Lidia Tapia Iglesias, member of the Party Central Committee, who recalled that the organization, founded August 23, 1960 by the Revolution’s historic leader, Fidel Castro, and heroine of the city and mountains Vilma Espín, had as its principal objective, from the very beginning, the full incorporation of women into all walks of the country’s social and economic life.

FMC’s accomplishments

Among the FMC’s accomplishments, Tapia emphasized the establishment of childcare centers; modern legislation protecting children; the development of sex education; progress in the realm of labor and wages; and an important role in drafting the country’s Family Code.

She noted that women today constitute 48% of those employed in the state sector, 66% of technical professionals, and 53% of scientists.

The FMC has also contributed to increasing the number of women in leadership positions, she said, noting the important fact that 48.86% of National Assembly deputies are female, one of the highest proportions in the world.

During the anniversary event in Bayamo, the province of Granma was awarded the National Vanguard flag, while the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Artemisa and Villa Clara were recognized for their outstanding work.

Other distinguished guests at the event included Sonia Virgen Pérez, member of the Party Central Committee and provincial Party general secretary; Revolutionary Armed Forces Brigadier General Delsa Esther Puebla (Teté); and Edemis Tamayo (La Gallega), these last two members of the legendary group of female revolutionary combatants, the Marianas.

In the Segundo Frente municipality of Santiago de Cuba, the continued relevance of Vilma Espín’s thought and actions was reasserted and honored on the anniversary of the FMC, to which she devoted a great part of her life.

A floral wreath was laid at the spot where her ashes rest, at the Frank País García Eastern Second Front Mausoleum, in the name of all Cuban women, as the culmination of a commemorative event led by local FMC leader Yitsi Torres Reyes, who reiterated the organization’s permanent commitment to continuing the work of the its eternal president.

Source:  Raúl congratulates Cuban women on FMC’s 55th anniversary  Granma

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Widespread non-partisan demand for resignation of corrupt Guatemalan President Perez; Vice President imprisoned

Source: Latin Times
August 27 2015

By Cedar Attanasio

crowd demanding resignation of guatemalan president

Crowds gather in Guatemala City, Guatemala to demand the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina.  Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti will be held in jail throughout her trial over an alleged customs racket, a judge ruled on Wednesday. Baldetti, who was arrested on Friday, has been charged with illicit association, bribery and fraud over a customs racket she allegedly led with President Otto Perez. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez faced opposition on the streets again today as his former Vice President Roxana Baldetti goes to trial over corruption charges. Business closed and workers and students walked out of buildings and into the streets in at least a dozen cities on Thursday, according to Prensa Libre, which live-blogged the strike.

Though Pérez is a staunch conservative, opposition was not strictly partisan. Initially organized by educational organizations and social justice groups, the strike itself received outspoken support from a cross-section of society and major corporations, including Sears and a major national bank.

bank empoyees take to the street in Guatemala

More than 200 workers @ BancoIndustrial walked this afternoon from Z.4 to join # Paro27A . Via @ rbolanos_pl

On the streets of Guatemala City, chants of “step down now,” “prison for the corrupt,” and “I don’t have a president” were heard in dozens of cities, La Prensa Gráfica reported. In Cobán, protesters published a video of a massive chorus singing a patriotic song. On Twitter, Guatemalans rallied under #Paro27A, short for “Strike August 27th.” Pictures of cute pet dogs with protest signs were common.

On Tuesday, Guatemala’s Supreme Court approved a request by the country’s attorney general to force Pérez to resign. Congress still has to sign off before he can be hauled into court, but the office of the Attorney General has formally recommended that the president step down voluntarily in order to avoid “ungovernability,” according to a statement released on Wednesday.

rosetta baldetti former vice president of guatemalaThe “La Línea” scandal has implicated Pérez’s VP, Baldetti, after months of painstaking investigation by a U.N.-backed legal team. Baldetti has not been granted bail and sits behind bars during the trial. Her secretary, who is charged with participating in the corruption scheme, has fled authorities. Read our reporting from earlier in the week to learn more of the details about the corruption scandal.

Prensa Libre also reported major protests in Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán, Sololá, Alta Verapaz, Chiquimula, San Marcos, Quiché, El Progreso, Jalapa, Baja Verapaz, Petén, Sacatepéquez and Huehuetenango.

guatemalans demonstrate against president perez

Hundreds of residents of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, Sololá, came to demonstrate against Perez Molina. (Prensa Libre Photo: A. Julajuj)

Star Guatemalan soccer player Carlos Ruiz joined protesters in Guatemala City.

carlos ruiz guatemalan soccer star joins demonstrators

Source:  Guatemala Crisis 2015: Thousands Demand Resignation Of President Otto Pérez Molina Following Former Vice President Roxana Baldetti Arrest  Latin Times

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Argentina: Cristina’s candidate wins the presidential primaries

Source:  TeleSUR
August 16 2015

In an election where almost every presidential hopeful sought to stake their claim as the candidate for change, it was the incumbent Kirchnerista forces that came out in front. This is significant,as for the first time, neither the late former president Nestor Kirchner nor his wife, the current President Cristina Fernandez was available for election.

Daniel Scioli (L) and Carlos Zannini Argentina

Daniel Scioli (L) and his vice-presidential running mate Carlos Zannini, one of the Cristina’s closest and longest allies,

Argentine voters went to the polls on August 9 to cast a ballot in the presidential primaries – a legally required first step towards running in the upcoming presidential elections in October.

Argentina’s electoral system requires all voters, not just party members, to decide which candidate from each major party or coalition will run in the October 25 presidential election. As such, its results are widely seen as an early look at the presidential contest’s result.

The primaries – first implemented in 2011 – have a dual feature: it allows voters to vote for the pre-candidate they want their party to stand in the election and filters out parties who fail to obtain 1.5 percent of the vote by barring them from the presidential race.

Eleven parties and coalitions put forward 15 presidential pre-candidates

Eleven parties and coalitions put forward 15 presidential pre-candidates. Three were seen as the main contenders: Mauricio Macri, who won 24 percent running for the Let’s Change Alliance; Sergio Massa, a traditional right-wing Peronist who won 14 percent on the slogan “A more just change”; and Daniel Scioli, backed by Cristina and the Front for Victory Alliance (FPV), who won with 38 percent of the vote.

In the past, primary winners have increased their vote in the actual elections. This places Scioli in striking distance of winning either 45 percent of the vote or 40 percent with a 10 percent advantage over his nearest opponent – which would enable him to avoid a second-round run-off vote.

The FPV was set up to contest elections after the December 2001 anti-neoliberal uprising

If Scioli wins, it would be the fifth straight presidential win for the FPV. After 12 years in government, for many Argentines, the FPV continues to represent a break with the country’s traditional political class.

The FPV was set up to contest elections after the December 2001 anti-neoliberal uprising – known as the Argentinazo – that brought down several presidents under the slogan: “All of them must go!”

The FPV won the 2003 presidential race by standing Nestor Kirchner, a relative outsider who came from the traditional Peronist party, as its candidate.

Victory for Cristina in 2007 and 2011 

The 2007 and 2011 elections were won by Kirchner’s wife Cristina. A large part of their support has been due to policies that have sought to reactivate the economy. They have pushed greater state regulation and wealth redistribution via expanded social programs, as well as a strong stance in defense of human rights.

Kirchnerismo is seen by many as part of the broader trend of left governments that have been elected into power in South America since the turn of the century.

Scioli – FPV’s best candidate

With Kirchner passing away in 2010 and Cristina unable to run due to constitutionally mandated term limits, the FPV selected Scioli as its best hope for holding on to government.

The decision to run Scioli, who as governor of Buenos Aires had sought to distance himself from Kirchnerismo, was highly controversial among FPV ranks.

Scioli’s background is as a businessperson and politician in the neoliberal Carlos Menem government. Along with his moderate “self-help” discourse, his image stands in sharp contrast to Cristina’s confrontational anti-oligarchic stance.

For these reasons, his candidature was seen by some on the left as a shift by Kirchnerismo back towards traditional Peronism.

Carlos Zannini, selected as Scioli’s vice-presidential running mate

On the right side of politics, much was made of Scioli’s adoption of key policies, slogans and colors identifying him with Cristina – cited as proof he was shifting in the opposition direction.

The right-wing media’s fears seemed confirmed when Carlos Zannini, one of the Kirchner’s closest and longest allies, was selected as his vice-presidential running mate.

The truth, however, is more complicated. Scioli clearly has a more traditional political background, but is acutely aware of the continued support for Cristina and FPV policies that moved away from neoliberalism.

Defending Kirchnerismo’s achievements

Much of his primary campaign was spent arguing that while for the other candidates, “change” meant reverting to the neoliberalism of the ’90s, his campaign stood for defending Kirchnerismo’s achievements, while pushing improvements.

Speaking to the press after his primary win, Scioli said: “The people do not want austerity, indebtedness, cuts. They do not want the old recipes of the past, instead they want to continue forward on the basis of our achievements to date … The country is in the best condition to improve what has to be improved.”

Whether Scioli sticks to his word or seeks to gradually move away from the policies of Kirchnerismo is yet to be seen. But his comments reveal that any such move will come up against the hopes of many of his voters.

Rise of the left

The primaries also marked the continued rise of the Left and Workers Front (FIT). The far left ticket increased its votes from 2011 by 50 percent, narrowly missing out on fourth position.

Initially formed by three Trotskyist parties in 2011 as a bid to overcome the seemingly insurmountable 1.5 percent barrier imposed by the primaries, the FIT has gone on to win seats at a national and provincial level.

The FIT’s success came on the basis of positioning itself as a viable left alternative to Kirchnerismo in a context where previous attempts at forming liberal left coalitions have faltered.

The FIT has won the respect of many due to its strong campaigning within trade unions, on universities and in parliament.

The primaries also marked a certain changing of the guard inside the FIT. Unable to reach agreement on a common presidential slate, and in the context of growing internal disputes, the FIT went into the primaries with competing lists.

The first, running as the “Unity List”, brought together two of the three component parties of the FIT as well as a range of groups outside the coalition. The list was headed by Jorge Altamira, a historic leader of the Trotskyist left and previous FIT presidential candidate.

The other list was called “Renovate and Strengthen the Front” and headed by Nicolas Del Cano. A young community organizer, in 2013 Del Cano was catapulted into national parliament after winning a historic 14 percent of the vote in the traditionally conservative Mendoza province.

The young Del Cano and a call for politicians to be put on a teachers’ wage

Almost everyone expected Altamira to win, but the Renovate and Strengthen list ended up taking just over half of all votes cast for FIT candidates. Del Cano put victory down to his focus on denouncing the “political caste” and his call for politicians to be put on a teachers’ wage.

This was undoubtedly aided by the freshness of the Renovate list’s campaign – which prioritized women, youth and worker candidates. Many also see Del Cano – at 35 the youngest presidential candidate by far – as a stark contrast not only to the stale old politician types that have traditionally run the country, but also to many left groups.

In the 14 years since the Argentinazo, Argentina has changed a lot. Yet while millions may not be on the street demanding “All of them must go!”, it is evident that the yearning for a break with the past that those protests represented still lingers.

Source:  Argentina: Voters Reaffirm Support for Change  TeleSUR

Cuba begins 3rd phase of clinical trials of treatment for prostate cancer

Source:  Cuba Inside the World
August 21 2015

Cuban scientists are drafting the protocols for the third phase of clinical trials of a potential treatment for advanced prostate cancer, state media reported.

Heber ProvacThe therapy, named Heberprovac, was developed at the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center, or CIGB, in the east-central province of Camaguey.

After the second phase of the trial was completed in early 2015, Heberprovac was approved for “safety and efficacy” by Cuba’s State Bureau of Medications, Medical Equipment and Devices.

The next step in the clinical trial is to compare the efficacy of the new Cuban drug with Zoladex, an internationally known therapy for several types of cancer, one of the Heberprovac researchers told the official AIN news agency.

The hope is that the Cuban compound will be able to compete with Zoladex in resistance to hormonal castration, either delaying its appearance or reverting it, the report said.

Prostate adenocarcinoma is a tumor feeding on testosterone, and both therapies inhibit the production of the male hormone, thus reducing the afflictions associated with this type of cancer.

Heberprovac’s administration schedule, which includes seven injections – the first four every 14 days and the rest once a month – is better than Zoladex’s schedule, CIGB scientists said.

Zoladex, which is also used to treat breast cancer, is administered every three months via subcutaneous implant.

Although Heberprovac cannot be described yet as a cure for prostate cancer, most of the patients treated “show longer survival rates and a better quality of life,” the Cuban researchers said. EFE

Source:  Cuba begins 3rd phase of clinical trials of treatment for prostate cancer  Cuba Inside the World

Denia Caballero wins Cuba’s first gold medal in the women’s discus at a World Championships

25 August 2015

Caballero stands now as a 70-metre thrower, the best in the world for 24 years. More importantly, she is Cuba’s first gold medallist in the event at a World Championships

Denia Caballero did not take long to clinch Cuba’s first-ever gold medal in the women’s discus. On her first attempt, the fourth throw of the competition, she produced a massive 69.28m effort which stood up for the rest of the competition.

Denia Caballero 9a

Caballero did not stop there. She had four of the five farthest throws of the final as she held her rivals at bay.

It took until the 58th of the 60 throws in the final for defending champion Sandra Perkovic to summon a challenge. But her final-round effort of 67.39m, though good enough for the silver medal, was not enough to cause Caballero to break sweat.

Until Perkovic’s final gambit it looked like two medals for Cuba. Yaime Perez, who defeated both Perkovic and Caballero at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, had moved into third place with 65.46m in the final round.

Perkovic also pushed Germany’s Nadine Muller down from second to third. Like the winner, Muller had done her finest work early, with a first-round throw of 65.53m.

Although Maritza Marten won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992, Cuba has had to wait until now for a world champion.

(L-R) Sandra Perkovic of Croatia, silver medal, Denia Caballero of Cuba, gold medal, and Nadine Muller of Germany, bronze medal, pose on the podium after the women's discus throw event during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, August 25, 2015.       REUTERS/David Gray

(L-R) Sandra Perkovic of Croatia, silver medal, Denia Caballero of Cuba, gold medal, and Nadine Muller of Germany, bronze medal, pose on the podium after the women’s discus throw event during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

Previously, all the Caribbean nation’s four World Championships medals in this event had been won by one woman – Yarelis Barrios – who took silver behind Franka Dietzsch in Osaka in 2007 and behind Dani Samuels in Berlin in 2009, and then bronze in both 2011 and 2013.

Perkovic had last year become the first woman in 22 years to throw beyond 70 metres, but Caballero topped that with a 70.65m stunner in Bilbao in June. Despite that, she had not beaten Perkovic until Tuesday night’s final, though she did enjoy a competitive edge over Perez. Accordingly, the form was hard to read.

Caballero’s first throw made all of that irrelevant. Certainly her rivals took time to respond. Perkovic had a first-round foul and took three rounds to move into a medal position. 2013 silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon was never a contender. USA’s Gia Lewis-Smallwood, one of the few to beat Prekovic in recent years, likewise did not make the top eight.

Samuels, too, took several rounds to get into her stride. Her first throw was a forgettable 53.56m and her best of 63.14m in the fourth round gave her sixth position overall.

Though Caballero did not improve on her first-round effort, she had throws of 65.97m and 66.55m in the fourth and fifth rounds – good enough to have led at that stage – and a final effort of 66.58m.

The 25-year-old Caballero came into 2015 with a best of 65.60m and a best global championships result of eighth in the 2013 World Championships final.

She stands now as a 70-metre thrower, the best in the world for 24 years. More importantly, she is Cuba’s first gold medallist in the event at a World Championships.

Len Johnson for the IAAF