VIO News Blog

June 24, 2008

Andean Nations Opt for Drug Policies Apart from US

Venezuela’s well-known youth orchestra program is not only being offered in prisons as we reported yesterday, but also it is now being implemented in some of the richest nations of the world. Reuters reports that a pilot project was launched in Scotland last year, and in October, the city of Los Angeles will begin a Venezuela-inspired youth orchestra aimed at helping disenfranchised youth. In Venezuela, the program serves about 300,000 children and has gained fame for producing some of the best musicians in the world, including conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

In regional news, a meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts, according to El Universal. Leaders of member countries Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil will instead meet next week during a summit of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) in Argentina. Reuters reports that some Andean governments are forging news ways to combat drug trafficking. “We are not going to continue sacrificing our foreign policy for U.S. politics,” said Ecuador’s Security Minister, Gustavo Larrea. Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have all opted to use their own policies rather than those imposed upon them (albeit with a large sum of funds) by the U.S. since, as President Correa points out, the drug war has not worked at all in Colombia.

Research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that Venezuela will replace Chile as the country with the region’s highest GDP per capita, and that Argentina will become the region’s third-largest economy, according to the Latin Business Chronicle. Venezuela’s GDP per capita will likely reach $11,933 this year. IMF estimates show that Venezuela’s total GDP is set to reach $334.7 billion. While these numbers signal overall improvements for the economy, they do not measure key benefits received by more than half of the population through government-run social programs.

In more economic news, as the U.S. dollar rises, currencies throughout Latin America are weakening, reports Reuters. This is due to the fact that most countries’ exports are bought in dollars. Venezuela’s global bond, one of the most traded in the emerging markets field, fell this week. Analysts chalk this up to “no specific recent debt buy-back mentioned by Chavez” and some new growth measures announced that investors seem wary of.

Finally, CBS News reports on an internet ad in which Republican candidate John McCain describes his energy policy. It equates the Presidents of Venezuela and Iran and deems them “enemies” of the U.S. According to the ad, “Much of the world’s oil supply is controlled by states, regimes and a cartel for which America’s well being is not exactly a priority.” Venezuela’s continuous efforts to foster stability in the US through its oil refining, discounted heating oil program, and emergency injections of oil into the market during Hurricane Katrina are of course not mentioned.

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