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New Label Defends Family Farming in Argentina

By Fabiana Frayssinet, IPS News

It’s pouring rain in the capital of Argentina, but customers haven’t stayed away from the Bonpland Solidarity Economy Market, where family farmers sell their produce. The government has now decided to give them a label to identify and strengthen this important segment of the economy: small farmers.

“Our vegetables are completely natural. They are grown without toxic agrochemicals,” farmer Norma Araujo told IPS. She is a member of the Florencio Varela Family Farmers Cooperative, which also sells chicken, eggs, pigs, and rabbits. Across from Araujo’s stand, Analía Alvarado sells honey, homemade jams, cheese, seeds with nutritional properties, natural juices, olive oil, whole grain bread, organic yerba mate – a traditional caffeinated herbal brew – and dairy products. “The idea is to give small farmers a chance, and here we have people from all around the country, who wouldn’t otherwise have the possibility of selling their goods,” Alvarado said.

The Ministry of Agriculture took another step in that direction with the creation in July of the “Produced by Family Farms” label, “to enhance the visibility of, inform and raise awareness about the significant contribution that family farms make to food security and sovereignty.” According to the ministry, there are 120,000 family farms in this country of 43 million people, and the sector is “the main supplier of food for the Argentine population, providing approximately 70 percent of the daily diet.”

In the category of family farmers the government includes peasants, small farmers, smallholders, indigenous communities, small-scale fisher families, landless rural workers, sharecroppers, craftspeople, and urban/suburban producers. In his interview with IPS, Family Agriculture Program Director Raimundo Laugero said the label will not only identify products as coming from the family agriculture sector, but will “guarantee health controls, chemical-free and non-industrial production, as well as production characterized by diversity - unlike industrial farming.”

Laugero noted that besides accounting for 20% of agricultural GDP, family farming in Argentina represents 95% of goat products, 22% of cattle products, 30% of sheep products, 33% of honey, 25% of fruit, 60% of fresh vegetables, and 15% of grains.

“But that doesn’t always translate into profits,” he said. “We need to work hard on those aspects so that income also ends up in the hands of family farmers.”

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/new-label-defends-family-farming-in-argentina/

Polls close in Argentina with Scioli projected winner; Macri, Massa complete podium

The Victory Front's Daniel Scioli has triumphed in the PASO (first round) presidential elections, with exit polls predicting a victory margin of around 12 points over the right-wing PRO candidate, Mauricio Macri. Sergio Massa, of the centrist UNA front, takes third place.

The first formal results will be available around 10 pm (9 pm, EST), electoral authorities have confirmed, after a day of voting that was carried out "with complete normality" across Argentina.

32,064,323 citizens were eligible to vote today in Argentina, with almost 12 million registered in the Province of Buenos Aires, the country's largest electoral district.

A total of 15 presidential hopefuls were seeking a place in the October 25 general election with the ruling Victory Front (FpV) party bringing only one candidate to get the party’s nomination: the outgoing governor of Buenos Aires Province Daniel Scioli, joined by longtime presidential adviser Carlos Zannini as his running mate.

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri (PRO - right wing), Congressman Ernesto Sanz (UCR - center-right) and Congresswoman Elisa Carrió (Civic Coalition - right/left umbrella) were competing to win the nomination of the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) coalition. In the UNA front (centrist Peronists), the contenders are suburban Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa (Renewal Front) and the outgoing Governor of Córdoba Province, José Manuel de la Sota.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/196020/polls-close-with-scioli-projected-winner-macri-massa-complete-podium

Peru a Shining Example for South America’s Climate Action Plans

By Chris Wright - IPS

This week, Peru became the first South American nation to publicly announce its Climate Action Plan, or INDC. In doing so, it may have set the scene for a new wave of highly transparent and ambitious INDC submissions from the continent.

This most recent plan comes after 12 years of collective planning, as Peru developed a suite of regional and national strategies to address climate change. As a result, the government of Peru has come out with an ambitious proposal to cut business as usual emissions by 31 per cent. However, it is the carefully constructed road map towards this goal that displays what Tania Gullen from Climate Action Network Latin America describes as its true “leadership.” Gullen, who is also from SUSWATCH, has welcomed the new draft action plan “as an example for other Latin American countries who are still developing or haven’t started their national planning processes.”

This is because Peru’s target of 31% is backed up by 58 clearly outlined different mitigation projects. These projects cover energy, transport, agriculture, forestry and waste management. While two of these projects involve a shift from coal to natural gas, rather than renewables, each of these options has been carefully identified and their emissions reduction potential quantified. This makes it very easy for Peru to ask for support from developed countries to help improve on its commitments. In fact, the government has even outlined how it can increase emissions cuts to up to 42 % with an extra 18 projects. Considering the planning that has gone into creating this additional scenario of a 42% reduction by 2030, this could also be released as a twin-track conditional and unconditional pledge.

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/peru-a-shining-example-for-south-americas-climate-action-plans/

Digital Era Here to Stay in Argentina’s Classrooms

By Fabiana Frayssinet - IPS

The showcases in the Colegio Nacional Rafael Hernández, a public high school in La Plata, Argentina, tell the story of the stern neoclassical building which dates back to 1884. But the classrooms reflect the digital era, thanks to the computers distributed to all public school students as part of a government social inclusion program Conectar Igualdad (Connecting Equality), run by the National Social Security Administration.

Since 2010, 5.1 million laptops – referred to here as notebooks – have been distributed, reaching all of the students and teachers in the country’s secondary and special education schools and government teacher training institutes. The computers, with Internet connection, are used in all of the courses, both in school and at home.

The program’s administrators see creative initiatives like La Plata high school teacher Fernández Troiano’s combination of diverse disciplines as a reflection of how universal access to a computer is a powerful educational tool.

Silvina Gvirtz, executive director of Conectar Igualdad, explained to IPS that the program emerged from a decision by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner as part of an integral educational policy that in 2006 made secondary education compulsory until the age of 18.

Conectar Igualdad has also given a major boost to the national computer industry. Ten computer factories have opened, and in each public tender, more domestically produced parts have been required, as well as more and more advanced technologies, such as greater memory and better video definition, Gvirtz said. Along with Windows, the notebooks use Huayra, a Linux-based open source operating system developed locally for the programme, which unlike proprietary systems can be modified and improved, she noted.

When they started saying that every student would have a notebook, nobody believed it – people said that would be the day when cows fly,” said a student, María Elena Davel. But the cow, which today is the Huayra symbol, is now flying and plans to go even higher. The next step is to add a computer programming course in schools. “This is key because we want to move towards technological sovereignty,” said Gvirtz. “We want to form both producers and intelligent consumers of technology.”

The laptops are distributed to the students under a loan-for-use agreement with the parents. The youngsters can then keep them if they graduate. One challenge is training the teachers, who must adapt to the new e-learning and digital culture in this country of 42 million people, where there are nearly 12 million students in the educational system (pre-school to graduate school).

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/digital-era-here-to-stay-in-argentinas-classrooms/

Civil Code that modernizes rules for everyday life comes into effect in Argentina

Same-sex marriage, assisted fertilization, the right to choose the order of the surnames that a child will have, and the protection of the environment are some of the rights consecrated in the new Civil and Commercial Code that will come into effect today and change several key laws and rules on everyday life.

“This is the Code of democracy,” said Justice Secretary Julián Álvarez, one of several government officials who celebrated the enactment of the Code that was drafted by a commission that was led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti over one year. “There are no longer differences between men and women. The new Code has an updated language,” Álvarez said. “If someone wants to get divorced, he or she will be able to do it without needing to feel ashamed.”

Álvarez also said that the Code expands the rights of children and youth in line with international conventions. “You can’t start to have rights only when you turn 18,” he explained.

The Code — which unified the Civil and Commercial Code — was welcomed by several sectors as it brings order to a reality that did not exist when Dalmacio Vélez Sarsfield wrote the original version in 1869. It did, however, come under fire from conservative sectors — such as the Catholic Church — and also criticized by progressive groups for having left behind several issues.

The new Code incorporates the right of same-sex couples to get married in tune with a law passed in 2010 by the ruling Victory Front (FpV) and its progressive allies. “The Code not only respects the idea of equality and non-discrimination for sex or gender orientation but also incorporates regulations to assisted fertilization techniques,” expert Marisa Herrera explained to the Herald last year.

The Code also simplifies divorce, which was one of the issues that angered Catholic leaders.

Adopting a child has been an onerous process for people over the past few years. Reformers sought to simplify the paperwork and grants unmarried couples the right to adopt a child. The new Code highlights that the child’s right to identity has to be preserved as is his or her right to have a voice in the adoption process.

A heated controversy emerged when the Senate decided to modify Article 19 of the bill, which makes reference to the origin of life. In order to gain conservative votes, an essential part of it was removed, leaving only the idea that life starts since conception and removing the previous idea that life also starts when the embryo is implanted in a womb.

The changes are a result of a request from the Catholic Church. That was something that really annoyed many as it is necessary to divide the state from Catholic authorities and was seen as contradictory with the ongoing human rights policy,” Herrera said.

Lawmakers also decided to remove the idea of surrogacy amid criticism from conservative groups, though it was ultimately included in the bill submitted by the drafting commission in March 2012.

In conversation with the Herald last year, former Mendoza justice Aída Kemelmajer conceded that the Code was conservative in some aspects. “This is the Code that was possible,” the well-know jurist said.

Last year, the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) called the Code a “classist bill,” as it did not include the idea of the social purpose of private property. “Housing deficit is a worrying problem and incorporating this to the Code was a way to make it visible,” CELS Executive Director Gastón Chillier told the Herald last year.

The human rights organization also complained due to the idea that the state civil liability was going to be discussed in a separate law. “That law did not include the idea that the state is liable for human rights violations and has to pay compensations,” Chillier also explained. The government decided to remove that chapter from the bill and to discuss it as a separate law, which was passed by the Senate in 2013.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/195373/civil-code-that-modernizes-rules-for-everyday-life-comes-into-effect

UN sets principles for new debt framework

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

The establishment of a new legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring is now a step closer to becoming a reality as the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Sovereign Debt Restructuring Processes approved yesterday a set of principles that seek to limit the actions of “vulture” funds worldwide.

After six months of meetings and summits, the UN committee agreed on nine principles that sum up the main points to be included in the framework. The points agreed upon by the body are:

- The sovereign right of states to restructure their debts.
- Sovereign immunity.
- Respect for majority decision in restructuring processes.
- Equal treatment.
- Good faith.
- Transparency.
- Impartiality.
- Legitimacy.
- Sustainability.

The document will now be put to a vote in the General Assembly in September.

“Many countries still did not attend the committee meetings, but then called to ask for the records. They care about the issue but they don’t want to discuss it,” the Argentine Foreign Ministry’s International Economic Relations Secretary Carlos Bianco said after the meeting. “We believe the best solution can be reached at the UN but that doesn’t mean we reject other alternatives. Even the IMF said there’s a loophole regarding the vultures.”

Sovereign immunity from jurisdiction and execution regarding sovereign debt restructurings is a right of states before foreign domestic courts and exceptions should be restrictively interpreted, according to the committee. Argentina has long argued that stance during its legal battle with holdout creditors and in response to the United States District Judge Thomas Griesa’s rulings.

According to the principles that were signed off on yesterday by the Ad hoc committee, sovereigns also have the right to design their macroeconomic policy, including restructuring its sovereign debt. That principle extends to restructurings, which should not be frustrated or impeded by any abusive measures, and that should take place as a last resort for the country. At the same time, there must be “good faith” by the country and by all its creditors to engage in “constructive” debt restructuring negotiations, according to the committee, with the goal of a “prompt and durable reestablishment of debt sustainability and debt servicing” as well as achieving the support of a critical mass of creditors through a constructive dialogue regarding the restructuring terms.

“The current international debt restructuring system suffers from problems of fragmentation, inefficiencies and protracted negotiations, which lead to a lack of growth oriented solutions to the debt problems of developing countries and challenges to developed countries,” the committee concluded. “The activities of non-cooperative litigating creditors continue to add to the uncertainty of post-debt restructuring outcomes.”

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/195111/un-sets-principles-for-new-debt-framework

The only real problem: vulture funds make their money by cashing in on Credit Default Swaps - which, as the name implies, only pay out if the targeted bond issuer is pushed into default, be it by hook or crook (or a bribed judge).

Mind you, this scam isn't limited to far-away countries; CDS can -and have- be used against corporate bonds right here in the U.S. (Delphi Automotive and Caesar's Entertainment went under this way). It's only a matter of time until vulture fund pirates like GOP-megadonor Paul Singer (the chief litigant in the Argentine case) use the Griesa rulings as precedent to go after municipal bonds - and ultimately U.S. bonds.

From his Cayman Islands perch, of course.

Argentina wins dispute with U.S. over beef

WTO rules in favour of Argentina, saying Washington violated trade rules with ban.

A dispute resolution panel with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favour of Argentina yesterday in a lawsuit filed against the United States more than 12 years ago due to a decision to ban Argentine beef imports. The ban led Argentina to lose about US$2 billion in potential exports, according to government estimates.

The report comes less than one month after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced changes to import rules regarding imports of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef from Argentina and Brazil, authorizing imports from both countries before the WTO ruling.

The WTO panel found, among other things, that the ban applied against Argentina had no “scientific excuse” as it’s not based on a risk analysis. When initially applied in 2001 during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country, the ban was in line with international standards; that changed when the outbreak was overcome in 2007, according to the WTO ruling. Additionally, the US arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminated between WTO members by allowing imports of fresh beef from Uruguay while prohibiting imports of the same product from Argentina.

“The panel widely agreed with the claims of Argentina, concluding that the sanitary measures applied by the US are incompatible with international trade rules,” the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. “They acknowledged that those measures aren’t based on a risk analysis, discriminate among countries with similar characteristics and are restrictive.”

The resolution was widely expected and the US stance on fresh beef produced in Argentina has changed since the complaint was filed in 2012. In August 2014, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its intention to add Patagonia to a list of countries deemed free of FMD and rinderpest. And in June this year, USDA announced rule changes that would allow imports of fresh beef from Argentina. Once the rules go into effect, the US will allow imports from Argentina.

“This triumph of Argentina at the WTO will eliminate the access barriers to the United States. The decision will have a positive effect on other WTO members that have unjustified bans on Argentine beef such as Canada, Korea and Japan,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We expect the new US sanitary regulations to be implemented in September this year.”

Once the market is officially open, Argentina will be capable of exporting US$280 million of beef to the United States per year, according to estimates from the Economy Ministry. Argentina lost US$1.6 billion of beef exports to the U.S. over the last eight years, besides the US$432 million that could have been exported to Canada and Mexico as partners in NAFTA.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/194795/country-wins-dispute-with-us-over-beef

While beef itself has only a minor share of Argentina's exports and overall economy (around 1% in each), it remains a fairly symbolic product due to the importance of beef in the Argentine diet (beef today makes up only half of all meat intake in Argentina; but at 132 lbs. per person annually, it's still consumed more than anywhere else in the world).

It's good to see the subsidy-dependent (and politically medieval) U.S. beef lobby feel the bite of free trade, as the right always expects others to. It's even better to know that U.S. consumers may soon be able to enjoy Argentine beef right here at home - the way free trade, at its best, intended.

The Growing Middle Class in South America and Mexico

From a new Pew Research Center report titled A Global Middle Class Is More Promise than Reality (pp. 36-7):

In South America, booming commodity prices and income redistribution policies helped spur the growth of populations that are middle income and upper-middle income. Some countries, such as Argentina and Chile, transformed from being majority low income or poor in 2001 to being majority middle income or better in 2011. Brazil ended the decade close to this tipping point. Mexico kept pace with its neighbors to the south, joining the ranks of countries in which about a quarter (26%) of the population is middle income.

The 10 countries from South America included in this study represent nearly 100% of the region’s population. These countries and Mexico realized noticeable growth in their populations that are middle income and upper-middle income. In 2001, the middle-income share of the population was 20% or higher in only four countries. By 2011, this was true in Mexico and in nine of the 10 countries in South America.

The most notable growth in the middle-income population was in Argentina, where the share more than doubled from 15% in 2001 to 32% in 2011. Sizable growth also occurred in Ecuador (up from 8% to 21%), Colombia (11% to 21%), Peru (14% to 25%), Brazil (18% to 28%), and Venezuela (20% to 30%). The share in Mexico increased from 17% to 26% during the first decade of the 21st century. Similarly, the share of the populations that are upper-middle income climbed into the double digits in 10 of the 11 countries by 2011, compared with four countries in 2001. Argentina again led the way: those who are upper-middle income constituted 7% of the population in 2001 and 24% in 2011. Significant changes also took place in Uruguay, where the share increased from 20% to 30%, and in Chile where the share rose from 15% to 23%.

Collectively, the 11 Latin American countries highlighted in this section added 63 million people to the global middle income population from 2001 to 2011, accounting for 16% of the global increase. They also added 36 million to the global population of those who are upper-middle income, which amounted to 20% of the increase worldwide. Somewhat ironically, the share of these countries in the global middle-income population fell from 19% in 2001 to 18% in 2011, a side effect of China’s dominance in the global trend. But their global share of those who are upper-middle income did increase, rising from 9% to 13% over the course of the century’s first decade (Note: Latin America represents 9% of the world's population).

The countries in South America and Mexico are still some distance from having fully acquired middle-income status, however. Nearly two-thirds or more of the populations in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru was poor or low income in 2011. And, generally speaking, South American countries are not yet in the same place as Eastern Europe with respect to developing middle-income or more well-to-do populations.

Report: http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2015/07/Global-Middle-Class-Report_FINAL_7-8-15.pdf

Right wins Buenos Aires mayoral election by narrow margin

Source: Fox News Latino

The Buenos Aires mayoral candidate for the conservative Republican Proposal (PRO), Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, eked out a victory in the election runoff on Sunday by less than 3 percentage points, according to the official vote count.

With 91.17% of the precincts reporting, Rodríguez Larreta, who has headed the capital government's cabinet since late 2007, garnered 51.37% of the votes, to the 48.63% captured by Martín Lousteau, the candidate of the center-left ECO party.

According to the official figures, turnout was 69.57%, and 5.08% of the deposited ballots were blank.

In the first electoral round, held on July 5, Rodríguez Larreta had garnered a plurality of 44.7%; but 50% was needed to avoid a runoff.

Lousteau - who had served as economy minister in 2007-08 during President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first term, although he is now an opponent of the administration - had received 25% of the votes in the first round.

Some 2.5 million people were registered to vote in the Argentine capital, making it the country's fourth-largest electoral district.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/07/19/right-wins-buenos-aires-mayoral-election-by-narrow-margin/

The closest thing in Argentina to the GOP, Rodríguez Larreta's PRO was once again able to capitalize on many Buenos Aires voters' hatred for brown-skinned immigrants - though less so than his predecessor Macri, since he appears to have squeaked by with a 3% difference over the centrist Lousteau.

This, of course, assuming there was no foul play with Macri's new e-voting machines (http://www.democraticunderground.com/110841993).

Lousteau won in 9 out of 15 districts; but large margins in the upscale 2nd, 13th, and 14th districts clinched a win for Rodríguez Larreta.

Rodríguez Larreta will inherit a difficult legacy from the CIA-supported Macri (a presidential hopeful and his current boss). These include:

* A 5-fold jump in the city's formerly low debt levels (from $500 million in 2007 to $2.5 billion today)
* Record property taxes (10-fold jump since 2007, more than doubling in real terms) and fares
* Runaway spending on padded contracts for privatized services ($500 million a year, with costs typically three times what other government bodies pay for similar items or services)
* Misallocation rates of 60% on budgets for public health and 90% on public education (much of it going to padded contracts, private school subsidies, and city advertising)
* Record number of potholes despite Macri's "zero pothole" promise (doubling from 20,000 in 2007 to 40,000 today)
* And worst of all a record number of residents in shantytowns (spending on public housing -a municipal responsibility- has virtually stopped since 2007).

Torture survivors of Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habré hope for justice as trial begins

Source: Fox News

The bodies came daily. Sometimes 10, sometimes 20 lives lost to torture, malnutrition or sickness in prison in Chad, say survivors. Clement Abaifouta, a prisoner himself, had to wrap them in sacks and bury them.

Abaifouta wants justice, like thousands of other political prisoners who were victims of torture during Chadian ex-dictator Hissene Habré's rule from 1982-1990. On Monday Habré will go on trial in Senegal, fulfilling the work of many who say they suffered abuse under his rule and setting a bold precedent for justice in Africa.

For more than a decade after his overthrow Habré lived freely in Senegal. His easy exile was a symbol of impunity in Africa until his he was taken into custody and charged in 2013. Now his trial is a warning to other African dictators that they may be held accountable in Africa for their actions, say human rights experts.

Habré will be tried by the Senegalese courts' Extraordinary African Chambers. It is the first trial in Africa of a universal jurisdiction case, in which a country's national courts can prosecute the most serious crimes committed abroad, by a foreigner and against foreign victims, said Human Rights Watch. It is also the first time the courts of one country are prosecuting the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes, it said.

"It shows that you can actually achieve justice here in Africa," said Human Rights Watch counsel Reed Brody who has been working on the case against Habré since 1999.

Habré's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to report published in May 1992 by a 10-member Chadian truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission particularly blamed Habré's political police force, the Directorate of Documentation and Security, saying it used torture methods including whipping, beating, burning and the extraction of fingernails.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/07/18/torture-survivors-chad-ex-dictator-hissene-habre-hope-for-justice-as-trial/

It's worth noting as well that Habré was installed by the Reagan administration, and arguably remained his favorite African dictator throughout the rest of his presidency - so much so that Human Rights Watch referred to the brutal and larcenous Habré as "Africa's Pinochet."
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