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FOCALPoint April 2011

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FOCAL plays key role in dialogue on Haiti at IDB Annual Meeting

Caribbean tsunami testing points to system shortcomings

South America sympathetic to China's growth

FOCAL Views: Seeking out energy security

In the face of Japan's nuclear disaster, Latin America examines its own sources of power.


cartoon_April_snippetGo to this month's editorial cartoon





Peru's general election: Volatile to the end
Fabiola Bazo and Maxwell A. Cameron
The country's election race has been marked by candidate-centred campaigns.
Gana Peru party leader and presidential candidate Ollanta Humala
The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba: Walking a fine line | SP
Ana J. Faya
Cuba's leaders are currently facing a serious internal crisis.
Photo: © A 4045 Jose Goitia/dpa/Corbis

Cuba's economic agenda and prospects

Archibald Ritter

Economic reform is a possibility, but political reform may not be in the cards.

Political accountability in Brazil
Timothy J. Power and Matthew M. Taylor

Corruption in the country is systemic, and coupled with widespread impunity.

Haiti in the face of forced evictions | FR
Amélie Gauthier

The eviction of displaced people from camps is now a pressing issue.

Bolivia: Autonomies in decline | SP
Diego Ayo

Centralizing tendencies may thwart the realization of autonomy.



FOCAL plays key role in dialogue on Haiti at IDB Annual Meeting

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) hosted its Annual Meeting March 25-28, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta. One of the goals of the meeting was to heighten the organization's support for projects that will positively affect the development of the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. FOCAL Chair of the Board Kathryn Hewlett-Jobes and FOCAL Executive Director Carlo Dade appeared as panelists for a seminar on March 24 on innovative business models in Haiti.

Alongside Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the IDB, and Ericq Pierre, Senior Counselor for Haiti at the IDB, Hewlett-Jobes engaged in action-oriented conversation on the role of private social investment in Haiti, the strategies with which business mod­els can provide solutions to support development in sustainable ways, and the potential for organizations such as FOCAL and the IDB to support social investment initiatives in Haiti.

Another particular seminar under­scored the accomplishments CSOs have achieved to support vulnerable groups in the LAC region, such as chil­dren, Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendents. Moreno emphasized that CSOs are essential to the develop­ment process. He saluted the civil so­ciety sector for reaching out to com­munities and for assembling private resources for public purposes.

Initiatives for improving the LAC re­gion were also presented by Canadian and international CSOs, such as Save the Children Canada, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology and PLAN International.

Caribbean tsunami testing points to system shortcomings

In the wake of Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, the Caribbean saw fit to test its own tsunami warning system March 23 and the results highlighted room for improvement.

Caribe Wave 2011 simulated a 7.6-magnitude earthquake off the Virgin Islands' coast, generating a tsunami with 10-metre high waves. The scenario involved 34 countries and tested the Caribbean warning system established in 2005 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

A 'dummy' message was issued from both the Pacific and Alaska tsunami warning centres to national authorities, who alerted the public using methods as varied as sirens, media outlets and text messages. However, only a few mobile telephone operators participated and the message was not received in several areas by the Global Telecommunications System (GTS).

Still, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova was "delighted with the level of participation" in the exercise, adding that "such drills are essential to evaluate the efficiency of warning systems and ensure their efficient operation when catastrophe strikes."

Caribbean locals call tsunamis el peligro olvidado, the forgotten danger. The last major tsunami occurred in 1946, killing almost 1,800 people in the Dominican Republic. Atlantic Ocean tsunamis only occur approximately every 20 years, but population and tourism growth in coastal areas have increased their potential damage. Officials at the U.S. National Weather Service want a third tsunami warning centre in Puerto Rico, in addition to existing centres in Hawaii and Alaska.

South America sympathetic to China's growth

People of the Americas are wary of China's growing economic and military influence, but the level of concern is marked by a North-South divide, according to a recent BBC poll.

While North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) members take a harsher view China's economic power, trade policies and military growth, the Asian giant finds a more sympathetic population in South America.

Canadians and Americans have an increasingly negative view of China's economic emergence, with a small majority in both countries viewing its influence negatively. This is much different from 2005, when a majority of Canadians and strong plurality of Americans saw China's economic rise positively. While both countries think their own trade with China will become more important over the next decade, 45 per cent of Americans and 39 per cent of Canadians think China handles trade unfairly. Most striking was North American attitudes toward China's growing military power: roughly eight of 10 North Americans saw this in negative terms.

Mexicans have hardened their opinions of China since 2005. Only 27 per cent view the country's economic rise as positive –halved from 54 per cent in 2005– while 53 per cent of Mexicans are now wary of China's growing military might.

In South America, Peru and Brazil both view China's economic emergence positively, with negative perceptions on the decline in Brazil. As for China becoming a military power, only Peruvians hold a favourable view (41 per cent positive; 28 per cent negative).

The poll was conducted for the BBC by GlobeScan/PIPA, which contacted 28,619 people in 27 countries.


Cartoon of President Obama speaking to presidents of Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador.

"The optic has changed. You are no longer our backyard."

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