Renewable Energy on the rise in Central America

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Beginning almost 10 years ago, the Central American region has been launching a wide range of small, clean energy projects in an attempt to combat the increasingly destructive effects of climate change. It is also an effort to provide cheaper alternatives to costly oil, and to supply power to communities in remote locales.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (a United Nations initiative), the region’s endeavors have been quite successful, with renewable energies contributing approximately 65% of the electric power used for public utilities. Gravity-powered micro hydro-power systems have been wildly successful in El Salvador, where families used to chop down trees for fuel, in turn damaging the ecosystem. So successful in fact, that Salvadoran border communities have started selling power to their neighbors in Honduras.

El Salvadoran director of Basic Sanitation, Health Education and Alternative Energy (known by its Spanish acronym – SABES), Louis Boigues, touts the hydropower plant as his country’s first “bilateral project.” The venture, completed in 2010, cost about $150,000 and was funded by the government in the Spanish region of Aragon. SABES, along with the help of the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America (EEP) and local citizens, handled the construction of the plant.

Seeing the success of their neighbors, many of the other Latin countries began their own small green projects as well. Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama have all taken measures to improve renewable resources. Common methods include using biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar energy to produce clean energy.

Just how far can renewable energy go in Central America?

According to a June 2013 study published by the Worldwatch Institute, “Central America has the potential to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with renewable energy, provided that the proper policies, incentives, and political support are in place.”

While many of the region’s citizens still lack access to electricity, power production of the seven countries combined totaled 44,000 megawatt hours in 2012, an increase of 4.7% from 2011.

The Inter-American Development Bank (inarguably the largest source of state-level financing in Central/Latin America) estimates that the entire gulf region, both the Latin Americas and the Caribbean, holds a “geothermal potential” of around 6,000 MW (megawatts).

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Earlier this year, El Salvador announced its plan to invest between $800 million and $1 billion to develop 355 MW of natural gas, the first and only (at least for now), venture of its kind in all of Central America. Although natural gas, a hydrocarbon-based fuel, is not as “clean” as some of the other methods mentioned previously, it is generally accepted as being “cleaner” than other fossil fuel options.

As stated by Alexander Segovia, Salvador’s technology secretary: “This is the biggest private investment in energy in the country’s history, (and) with this project we are securing the availability of energy for the future, with cleaner and cheaper power.”

Despite the overwhelming poverty, lack of education, violence, and corruption that has plagued the region throughout its history, Central America is still managing to make leaps and bounds in the renewable energy industry. And considering the plethora of talent and capital that the United States possesses, I would say it’s about time to start following Central America’s example.

Source(s):

http://www.cepal.org/default.asp?idioma=IN

http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/CA_report_highres_english_2013.pdf

http://eepglobal.org/home/

http://geo-energy.org/pdf/reports/2012-GEA_International_Overview.pdf

http://www.greenlocal175.com/urgenews.html

http://www.trust.org/item/20131128170602-5qi3n/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inter-American_Development_Bank

http://www.worldwatch.org/

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Immigration issues in the Dominican

Passport_of_the_Dominican_Republic

In recent months, the Dominican Republic has been feuding with neighboring island country Haiti about immigration and the legality of it. This story took a turn a few days ago when the Dominican Republic started putting a plan into place that could strip the citizenship of children born to migrants living there illegally.

The plan states that those affected by the ruling have 18 months to request Dominican citizenship starting in June 2014. The plan, however, does not provide details on what kind of requirements or conditions should be met. -EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ Associated Press

The biggest problem with the plan is the idea that it seeks to naturalize citizens who were born in the Dominican Republic and do not hold passports from other countries.

All of this comes because of earlier issues with immigration agreements with Haiti.

-Maria Harper

 

Disney Denies Rumors of Costa Rican Theme Park

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By Alex Dmuchovsky

This past Wednesday (12/4), Liberian mayor Luis Gerardo Castañeda announced that the Disney Corporation had purchased a sizable area of land in Costa Rica with the intention of constructing a theme park. The West African mayor made the announcement on a Costa Rican morning TV talk show called “Buen Día.However, according to a local newspaper out of San José (Tico Times), Sarah Domenech, a public relations manager at Disney Destinations, firmly denied the rumor.

“What I can say right now is that the news is completely false.”

The rumor caught on quick in the nation’s media, and had circulated around all major media outlets by the end of the morning.

Talking to the morning newscast via telephone, Castañeda reportedly informed viewers that the municipality of the alleged land purchase was mere days away from completing the permitting and zoning process. The Liberian mayor also hinted that ground could be broken within the next year on the “7,000 hectare” property.

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In an official press statement, Disney spokesperson Angela Bliss also denied the news. The statement in question read: “At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we continually look for ways to grow our business and as part of that process, we have conversations with many different entities. While Costa Rica is an attractive market, we have no plans for the region at this time.”

Castañeda called his statements a “misunderstanding.”

 

Source(s):

http://www.ticotimes.net/More-news/News-Briefs/Is-Disney-coming-to-Costa-Rica-_Wednesday-December-04-2013

http://insidecostarica.com/2013/12/05/disney-denies-plans-theme-park-costa-rica/

http://www.teletica.com/Noticias/34680-Alcalde-de-Liberia-confirma-que-Disney-compra-terreno-para-parque-tematico-.note.aspx

http://insidecostarica.com/2013/12/04/costa-rica-will-home-first-disney-theme-park-latin-america-mayor-confirms/

NGO provides College Students with opportunity for Humanitarian Work

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By Alex Dmuchovsky

Global Brigades, a non-profit organization established in 2004, is making waves in the humanitarian community. Initially focused on providing health services for under-resourced areas in Central America, the non-governmental organization (NGO) has expanded to provide services in 9 different “brigades.” Global Brigades (GB) functions via the “Holistic Model,” which seeks to: “collectively implement health, economic, and education initiatives to strategically meet a community’s development goals.”

The organization allows university students to set up chapters at their respective institutions, and then lays the infrastructure to allow chapters to travel, lodge, and volunteer in a country of their choosing. Sanitary restrooms, water systems, medical services, and “re”-forestation are just a few of the projects that volunteers undertake.

One of the primary objectives of the organization is to accomplish community goal’s in cooperation with community members. The idea is that local residents feel that they’ve meaningfully contributed to their communities, and that the service projects are of immediate and long-lasting value to them. For example, the NGO’s upper administration will hire local technicians (carpenters, construction workers, plumbers, etc.) that will then guide the student volunteers in accomplishing a task. Quoted from the organization’s website: “Without volunteers contributing time and donations, the in-country teams and community members would not have the resources to perpetuate the projects and the community’s request for extra hands and perspective would not be met.”

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In addition to an approach with humility, Global Brigades designs its programs to maximize their sustainability. Indefinite service in one area is neither practical nor fair to other communities, so each initiative is undertaken with the idea that at some point the community can perpetuate the work without the help of a brigade. For example, the “Medical Brigade” provides basic health care to an area, but it also elects and educates community leaders for roles liken to that of nurses, or other basic health providers (i.e., EMT’s).

Volunteer work is not the only way GB gives back to countries in need. The NGO has set up “Institutes” within each region, which seek to improve the preparation of volunteers, develop members’ professional experience, and improve access to higher education in the countries Global Brigades supports.

The organization is made up of 10 countries, with 6 volunteer-sending countries and 4 partner countries (Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, & Panama). From these volunteer countries, GB has facilitated the service of about 6,100 volunteers, and has helped over 350,000 people.

For a detailed annual report: http://issuu.com/globalbrigades/docs/fy2011_annual_report?e=6323651/2455818

Source(s):

http://www.globalbrigades.org/

U.N., Central America making Progress against HIV/AIDS

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By Alex Dmuchovsky

This year alone, Latin America recorded approximately 100,000 new cases of the HIV/AIDS virus. Despite this, Director of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Cesar Nuñez proclaims that Latin America is the region in the world that provides the highest treatment coverage per capita. According to him, ““Latin America is the region reporting the most widespread treatment coverage, higher than 67 percent on average.” Nuñez took part in the 8th Central American Meeting of People with HIV, which was held in San Salvador last week.

UNICEF (another United Nations program), released its 2013 “Stocktaking Report,” which gathers data on mothers, children, and the incidence of HIV/AIDS. According to the report, cases of new HIV diseases among newborns in Latin America has been halved since 2005, with an incidence of 540,000 in ’05 down to 260,000 in 2012.

Even more surprising, across Latin America there was a 37% drop in AIDS-related deaths between 2001 and 2012, according to The Namibian.

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Unfortunately, there are some countries within the region that still struggle in addressing the pandemic within its own population. For example, Nicaragua depends on funds from foreign contributions (governments, NGO’s, etc.) to fund almost all of its HIV/AIDS treatments.

The regional director of UNAIDS also considers the rate of infection among seniors (over 60 years old) a pressing issue, as countries like El Salvador have already seen a dramatic spike in cases for this demographic. The UN feels that warning people of the risks of contracting AIDS, as well as education on preventative measures, is of the utmost importance. According to The Bahamas Weekly, seven countries in South and Central America now follow World Health Organization (WHO, the UN’s public health branch) recommendations in providing treatment to patients. Additionally, the WHO outlined the framework for such programs in its new initiative, titled “Treatment 2.0.”

For more on Treatment 2.0: http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/treatment2/en/

Source(s):

http://www.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/unaidspublication/2013/20131129_stocktaking_report_children_aids_en.pdf

http://www.unaids.org/en/

http://www.unicef.org/

http://www.namibian.com.na/indexx.php?id=6773&page_type=story_detail&category_id=1

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1248736&CategoryId=12394

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/caribbean-news/Latin_America_and_the_Caribbean_advance_toward_universal_access_to_HIV_treatment31921.shtml

http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/16068702-recorded-100000-new-hiv-in-latin-america-this-year

Violence in Honduras Developing into an Epidemic

By Alex Dmuchovsky

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Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate according to the United Nations
Photograph by: Orlando Sierra, Getty Images , The Sunday Telegraph

Recess has taken on a whole new image in the Latin American nation of Honduras. While one might observe teachers keeping watch over the playground in the US, in Honduras it is now becoming increasingly common to spot armed soldiers keeping tabs on previously routine activities.

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It is a sign of harrowing times in Honduras, now considered the most dangerous country on the planet outside a full-fledged war one. According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime 2011 Global Study, Honduras has the highest rate of homicide per capita worldwide. It is estimated that there are 86 homicides for every 100,000 people, and the nation is on course to reach 90/per by the end of 2013.

The epidemic of violent crime has exploded in the last decade, after Honduras became the key launching post for the smuggling of cocaine into the US. A large portion of the violence stems from the activity of drug gangs, however lack of police presence has contributed to the endemic crime issue, as many criminals are able to commit such acts without fear of punishment.

While new political leaders are set to take office within a year, significant increases in security will be extremely hard to fund. According to the CIA, Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, and suffers from an extraordinarily unequal distribution of income (not to mention high unemployment).

Honduras has a formidable task ahead of them: stopping the violence in a country of about 8.5 million where 20 people are murdered a day — five times the rate of the States’ most violent city, Chicago. However, one thing is for certain. If Honduras cannot manage the crisis in a reasonable amount of time, expect intervention by a foreign government or organization.

Source(s):

http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/Homicide/Globa_study_on_homicide_2011_web.pdf

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/honduras/10454018/Welcome-to-Honduras-the-most-dangerous-country-on-the-planet.html

http://www.ibtimes.com/despite-excellent-economic-development-latin-america-inequality-violence-are-still-taking-chunk

http://www.leaderpost.com/news/Children+play+under+armed+guard+Honduras/9178608/story.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/27/honduras-election-hernandez-castro/3771647/

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ho.html

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1135.html#crime

Struggle for Maternal Rights in Central America

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By Alex Dmuchovsky

In 1992, the El Salvadoran armed conflict between the ‘Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front’ (FMLN) and the government supported ‘National Republican Alliance’ (ARENA) finally came to a conclusion. The Chapultepec Peace Accords, officially signed on January 16 of 1992, brought peace to a civil war that had plagued the Latin American country for nearly 12 years. The treaty established a nine-month cease fire (along with several other agreements), that began on February 1, 1992; which has not been broken since.

Free at last from the black cloud of civil warfare, Salvador experienced a landmark revival of its civil society. A new era had begun for the citizens of the Latin American country. An era that most Salvadoran women believed would pave the way for a new generation of equality and opportunity; however, more than two decades later, some of the hopes of the “new” women have yet to be fulfilled.

While the status of women in El Salvador is far improved from pre-1992, Mariana Moisa of the ‘Feminist Collective for Local Development‘ (CFDL), believes that there are many topics which are still kept in the dark, primarily concerning the maternal/birth-rights of women. According to Latinamerica Press, progress in women’s rights has come to a halt due to the high rate of adolescent pregnancies. “El Salvador does not have sexual education programs that are free of prejudice,” says the feminist, who also comments on the severe penalties given to women who follow through with an abortion, and even to those that simply consider the procedure. The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York cites the El Salvadoran government as having penalized would-be-mothers up to 30 years in prison for illegal abortions. 

Current discussions concerning the status of maternal rights have centered around the alarmingly high rate of teen pregnancies: El Salvador’s Ministry of Health reported the statistic that 89 out of 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age become pregnant. On one side, the increasingly influential Church forbids the termination of a fetus; while on the other, activists argue the life-threatening effects of adolescent child-bearing in addition to the human rights of rape victims

Despite the government’s apparent reluctance to address such humanitarian issues, several organizations have proclaimed some of Latin America’s complete abortion bans as contrary to international law, and are actively lobbying for change (Global Fund for Women). Additionally, the comprehensive health care center/project “Ciudad Mujer“, has recently undertaken the unprecedented task of educating citizens on sexual & reproductive health, as well as gender violence, economic empowerment, and promotion of rights   

For more on ‘Ciudad Mujer’: http://www.iadb.org/en/projects/project-description-title,1303.html?id=ES-L1056

Progress in Chile?: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/11/is-this-the-end-of-one-of-the-world-s-harshest-abortion-laws/281565/

Source(s):

http://www.lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6904

http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/el-salvador-nicaragua-women-children-abortion-ban-rape-incest-maternal-health-catholic-church-religion

http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/impact/news/42/287

http://www.trust.org/item/20130927150832-fqozn/

http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/the-guardian-el-salvador-abortion-controversy-shows-lack-of-progress-on-cairo-agenda

http://www.justassociates.org/en/ally/feminist-collective-local-development

http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a82f4.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapultepec_Peace_Accords

 

 

 

Exuma, the musician or magician?

by Hunter Kinder

One of the reasons I was initially interested in blogging on the Bahamas was the culture.  I learned a bit about the culture from one of my favorite musicians who is from Cat Island in the Bahamas; he goes by Exuma.

He was born on February 18, 1942 and was active musically in 1962 up until his death on January 25, 1997. His music can be described as a blend of Junkanoo, Calypso, and Ballad.  Junkanoo is a tradition  in the Bahamas in which music is paraded down the streets of towns on Boxing day (which is the day after Christmas when bosses give presents to their employees and vice-versa), New Years eve and in the summer. Calypso is a genre rooted in Afro-Carribean music originating in Trinidad and Tobago.

One of the first things apparent in hearing Exuma’s music is his soulfulness.  Not only is it present in his voice, but also his lyrics.  He talks about Obeah which is a term used to refer to folk magic, sorcery and religious practices derived from West Africa.

To learn more on Obeah: http://www.obeahrituals.com/

Exuma has opened my mind not only as a listener of music, but also as an observer/learner of culture and religion.

Touring the Dominican

The Caribbean. Known for it’s luxurious beaches and tourism agency. There’s one country that sticks out from all the rest, though: The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic tourism logo

Dominican Republic tourism logo

 The Dominican Republic has the largest tourism economy of all the Caribbean islands. Hot spots in the Dominican Republic include Cap Cana, Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.

Ecotourism has also become an interest to the country. Ecotourism is basically the act of visiting more rural and less visited areas. People often do service projects and try to aid the local economy.

Tourism is a huge industry in the Dominican Republic and continues to grow. The country offers tax incentives for people investing in the tourism industry. Since 2000 the tourism income of the Dominican Republic has risen over 65%. 

 The country prides themselves in their tourism industry.

-Maria Harper

United Nations relations in the Dominican Republic

Being the small country it is, it’s obvious that the Dominican Republic doesn’t play a huge role in the UN; however, as they develop, they continuously receive guidance from the UN.

Credentials: DR

Recently, their biggest issue with the UN was an urgency to allow Haitians to nationalization in their country. The Dominican Republic and Haiti have recently had issues allowing the opposing countries citizens’ access to citizenship as well as nationalities to their respective country. The UN has grasped hold of this news and continues to urge peace between the two.

Beyond that, The Dominican Republic continues to maintain an active membership in the UN with various permanent projects that take on issues such as human rights, peace, women’s rights, and more

-Maria Harper