Latin America in brief: Venezuela; Bolivia; El Salvador; Chile

July 6, 2014

Venezuela: Social programs expanded in poorest communities

The Venezuelan government has initiated its policy of expanding social programs in the country’s most deprived areas in a bid to eradicate extreme poverty, said on June 30.

The initiative, called “Red Sundays”, involves teams of social program workers visiting poorer communities every Sunday to diagnose which households are deprived of certain basic needs and which social programs are required to attend to these needs.

The information gathered during the visits is then used to strategically plan Social Mission Bases in poorer communities.

These bases are community centres housing different social programs such as free health clinics, educational and cultural programs, and subsidised food stores. The government plans to build about 1500 Social Mission Bases.

Structural poverty, which is a non-monetary indicator based on the satisfaction of needs such as access to education, adequate housing and public services, decreased from 29.9% in 1999 to 19.6% last year.

Extreme structural poverty decreased from 9.9% to 5.5% in the same period, reaching a record low last year. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by 2018.

Bolivia: new mining law bans patnerships with multinationals.

“After three years of negotiations, followed by six weeks of at times violent debate, Bolivia approved last week a new mining law, which denies cooperatives the right to partner with private companies, whether domestic or foreign,” said on June 5.

“The law ... also bans private firms from registering minerals as property, which means they can’t use them as collateral for loans or include them as assets in stock market filings. Bolivians, however, can now form mixed business enterprises with or through the state mining agency, Comibol.

“Until now, some of Bolivia's largest mines had partnerships between exchange-listed multinationals and small local cooperatives.” It said the law brings the sector in line with the 2009 constitution.

El Salvador arecongises indigenous people in constitution

In an historic vote, on June 12, El Salvador’s National Legislative Assembly ratified a reform to the nation’s Constitution that recognizes indigenous peoples and the State’s obligations to them, said on June 19.

The newly reformed Article 63 reads: “El Salvador recognises indigenous peoples and will adopt policies for the purpose of maintaining and developing their ethnic and cultural identities, cosmovision, values and spirituality.”

All parties in the Assembly voted for the amendment, except the main right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.

The reform will help establish mechanisms for indigenous groups in national decision-making and serve as a framework to guarantee rights and protections for El Salvador’s indigenous communities.

El Salvadaor: War criminals face extradition after years of US asylum

Two former Salvadoran military generals, who were granted US asylum in 1989, face possible deportation, said on June 20, after US federal court convictions for grave human rights violations committed during the country’s bloody civil war (1980-1992).

The rulings are an acknowledgement of the horrific and systematic crimes committed by the Salvadoran state in the 1980s, as well as an indictment of the US policy that supported and protected those officials.

Former minister of defence Jose García, and former national guard director Carlos Vides served from 1979 to 1983, presiding over the state murders of some 40,000-50,000 civilians. After being granted asylum, both settled in Miami, Florida, while the US continued to arm, fund and train the Salvadoran armed forces through to the end of the war in 1992.

Chile: US intelligence 'played role' in executions

US military intelligence played a key role in the 1973 executions of two US citizens in Chile, a judge ruled on July 1, Morning Star said the next day.

Judge Jorge Zepeda said that former US naval Captain Ray Davis had given information to Chilean officials about journalist Charles Horman and student Frank Teruggi that led to their arrest. They were executed just days after the 1973 coup that overthrew left-wing president Salvador Allende, bringing General Augusto Pinochet to power.

Davis commanded the US military mission in Chile at the time of the US-backed coup and was investigating US citizens thought to be “subversives and radicals”. He and two Chileans were charged in 2011, but Davis died in Santiago last year.

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