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Are peace and justice being achieved together in Colombia? In this 6-minute video, Colombia’s senior government officials, civil society leaders, and scholars debate that question. Gustavo Gallón, Ivan Cepeda and Eduardo Montealegre argue over Colombia’s “Peace & Justice” law, and if it is being used as an amnesty to shield those who have committed serious crimes. General Óscar Naranjo, Colombia’s National Police Director and ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo consider whether the prosecutor’s preliminary examination is helping strengthen domestic justice.
Bitter Taste in Mexican Coffee Farmers' MouthsBy Emilio GodoyMEXICO CITY, Apr 26, 2010 (IPS) - A Turkish proverb says "coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." But growers of the more expensive arabica coffee beans in Mexico are more concerned with a government plan to promote the cheaper robusta beans than with poetic maxims.The ministry of agriculture, livestock and fishing launched the "humid tropics" programme to boost production of the lower quality but hardier robusta coffee in nine of Mexico's 32 states. Currently, 95 percent of coffee produced in this country is the more prized but harder to grow arabica. "It will affect us, because it's going to generate a new coffee price crisis and will flood the market with a cheaper product," Cirilo Ruiz, a member of the regional coffee council of Coatepec, a town in the state of Veracruz, 400 km southeast of the capital, told IPS. The agriculture ministry will initially make three million dollars available with the aim of expanding the cultivation of robusta coffee in the nine states in question, to increase annual output from the current 150,000 sacks to 500,000 sacks by 2012. The direct beneficiaries will be big roasters like Switzerland's Nestle or the Mexican company Sabormex, because instant coffee is made with robusta beans. Eighty percent of instant coffee - which represents 57 percent of domestic consumption of coffee in this country - is sold by Nestle. Arabica, which is more highly regarded for its taste and aroma and fetches a higher price on the international market, must be grown 800 metres above sea level, while the hardier robusta can grow at lower altitudes and has more caffeine. Mexico is the third largest coffee producer in Latin America, after two world leaders: Brazil and Colombia, the first and third largest coffee producers in the world. (Vietnam is the second.) In Mexico, some 490,000 farmers grow coffee on more than 600,000 hectares, producing around 4.2 million 60-kg sacks of coffee a year. More than three million people directly depend on coffee farming for a living in this country of 107 million people. Robusta coffee is grown by about 19,000 families on 34,000 hectares of land in the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Puebla, and in Veracruz, one of the country's main coffee-producing areas, where 90,000 farmers grow arabica beans on 136,000 hectares. Coffee prices have rallied on the international market in the last few months, which has benefited farmers, but not nearly as much as it has benefited the big roasters. One sack of washed arabica beans now brings in around 165 dollars, while a sack of robusta beans fetches 70 dollars. However, the price of robusta coffee declined 15 percent between February 2009 and February 2010, while the price of other varieties rose, according to the London-based International Coffee Organisation (ICO), which brings together governments of coffee producing and consuming nations for the development of shared global strategies. "What I have seen is that demand has remained quite stable while supply is volatile, but is not on the rise," Juan Albín, a coffee farmer in the mountains of the state of Puebla and the director of the Mexican Coffee Promotion Council, remarked to IPS. Arabica coffee producers want to avoid a repetition of the 2000-2001 crisis, when countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, bolstered by credit from the World Bank, flooded the international market with robusta coffee, driving down prices. Within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has linked Canada, Mexico and the United States since 1994, instant coffee has been exempt from import duties since 2004, which has favoured Mexico's exports to both of its partners. "The companies are just looking for a bargain, because they're going to drive down costs and sell more instant coffee," Ruíz said. A 2006 study carried out by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for the Mexican agriculture ministry recommended that production of robusta beans not be increased beyond the current level - five percent of total coffee output. The report noted that the cost of producing robusta beans in Mexico is higher than the national average, and recommended that this country's coffee farmers focus on specialty niches like certified organic fair trade coffee. This year, the agriculture ministry will provide 42 million dollars in subsidies to coffee producers, including more than nine million dollars to farmers in Veracruz. The National Coalition of Coffee Growers Organisations (CNOC), a network of regional groups that represents tens of thousands of small farmers, complained in a document addressed to the agriculture ministry that roasters want production of the cheaper robusta beans to increase in order to gain a larger profit margin through sales of instant coffee. Mexico's coffee producer organisations are also working to design a strategy that would enable them to make headway in the highly profitable U.S. and European gourmet coffee markets. Mexico was a pioneer in the production and marketing of organic coffee, and is one of the biggest suppliers of the product in the fair trade system, which reduces the number of intermediaries and brings farmers higher prices. "Our project consists of boosting coffee cooperatives," said Albín. "We want yields to grow from today's nine quintals per hectare to 30 quintals." According to ICO figures, annual per capita coffee consumption in Mexico is 1.2 kg, below the level in Brazil (5.8 kg) and Colombia (1.8 kg), and far below the countries with the highest per capita consumption levels, like Finland (12 kg) and Norway (9.9 kg). But things have begun to change in this country, where coffee shops are the new rage. (END)Send your comments to the editor
Xavier Patiño, vice president and head executive of the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce, recognises the "impressive success" achieved by Coopera. "Not only do they already account for 10 percent of the market in Cuenca, with their own stores, but they have also served to regulate the market," he tells IPS. Patiño believes that Coopera and other cooperatives that operate along a similar model deserve credit for stabilising prices in Cuenca, where there has been zero inflation in recent months. This recognition led Patiño, whose family is involved in agribusiness, to invite Coopera to open an office in the building where the Chamber’s headquarters are located. The office was opened several months ago. Coopera was also invited to open an office in the headquarters of the Chamber of Agriculture of Guayaquil, which has traditionally represented large exporters of bananas, cacao and coffee. The fact that these small farmers from San Joaquín have managed to carve a place for themselves in the world of agribusiness is further testament to their success.
Observations, News Links and Information about narcotraffic and narcoviolence in Mexico. (narcocartels.blogspot.com). Links to Noroeste, Proceso, Milenio, El Universal and English language reports about narcoviolence, human rights, and cartels are posted 3 times each week. Personal analysis occasionally
MEXICO: Journalists' Options - Silence, Exile or the Grave By Emilio GodoyMEXICO CITY, Jan 15, 2010 (IPS) - Journalists are the target of such violence in Mexico that many have been forced to seek refuge in the United States, or to give up their profession. And the outlook at the start of this year is even grimmer for media workers in this country.One reporter was murdered and another went missing in early January, feeding expectations that violence against journalists in this Latin American country can only get worse in the immediate future. Valentín Valdés, a journalist for the newspaper Zócalo in the city of Saltillo, 850 kilometres north of Mexico City, in the state of Coahuila, was found dead Jan. 8, the day after he and a colleague, who was later freed, had been kidnapped by persons unknown. Before he was murdered, Valdés, who covered the local news in Saltillo, wrote an article about the arrest of several drug traffickers in the city. His killers left a message on his body: "This is what will happen to those who don't understand. This message is for everyone." "Our organisation is extremely concerned about the situation of journalists in Mexico. It is a dramatic situation. The outlook for 2010 is that it will be more violent than 2009; there are no indications that the risks will decrease," Balbina Flores, the representative in Mexico of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS. The Paris-based international organisation dedicated to promoting press freedom worldwide has monitored the situation of journalists in Mexico particularly closely since violence against them became more acute in the mid-2000s. José Romero, a news reporter for the radio station Línea Directa, has been missing since Dec. 30, 2009 from the town of Los Mochis in Sinaloa state, 1,400 kilometres north of the capital. Last year, 13 media professionals were murdered in Mexico, making it the highest-risk country in Latin America for journalists, with a record even worse than civil war-torn Colombia's. Since 2000, 57 journalists have been killed and at least nine more have been forcibly disappeared. "Violence is going to increase and 2010 is going to be the worst year in the history of Mexican journalism," Armando Prida, head of the non-governmental Foundation for Freedom of Expression (FUNDALEX), told IPS. President Felipe Calderón of the rightwing National Action Party (PAN) launched an offensive against the drug cartels, deploying thousands of police and army troops soon after he took office in December 2006. Since then there have been over 15,000 drug-related killings, including 155 casualties among the security forces, according to media counts. The latest murder of a reporter triggered another wave of outrage at home and abroad, but the government pays little heed to demands for protection and for an end to impunity for the perpetrators, according to journalists' associations. "We call on the Mexican authorities to deal urgently with this serious matter that affects the work of a free press and causes the practice of self-censorship to avoid retaliation," said Alejandro Aguirre, head of the Miami-based Inter-American Press Association, which links newspaper owners from Latin America and the Caribbean. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemned the murder and urged the Mexican state to step up investigations of violence against journalists and to create special protection mechanisms for reporters, especially along the border with the United States. "Being a journalist in Mexico, and covering news related to drug trafficking, organised crime in general and those who protect them, disguised as public servants, has become a high-risk profession. Reporting is dangerous," wrote Avenida 24, an on-line publication. This is the second time that Zócalo reporters have been attacked. Rafael Ortiz, who had written several columns on drug trafficking in Coahuila state, disappeared in 2006. A Special Prosecutor's Office was established that year by the Attorney General's Office to deal with crimes against journalists. So far it has handled about 100 cases, of which only four were referred to the courts. Organisations working for freedom of expression have concluded that the Special Prosecutor's Office is failing in its duties. Out of the 13 journalists murdered in 2009, the Mexican authorities say they have suspects in custody in five cases. Attacks on reporters are not an issue that Mexican society feels strongly about, which makes it difficult to push it higher up the political agenda and achieve stronger measures to protect the work of the media, journalists associations complain. In September, the newly sworn-in national legislature decided to eliminate a special congressional commission created to follow up on cases of attacks on journalists and the media. However, it eventually reversed the decision because of an escalation of violence against media professionals. The commission is expected to be reinstalled this week. But the lower house of Congress has still not passed a legal reform putting the Attorney General's Office in charge of investigating complaints of harassment and attacks on the media and journalists. At present, local prosecutors investigate these cases, without the benefit of a national strategy. "We are going to use every possible means to demand respect for the right to free speech. We need to shout it out: it is everyone's duty to defend freedom of expression," said Prida of FUNDALEX. According to RSF's records, at least four journalists have fled to the United States for safety since 2008 because of threats, allegedly from cartels that are fighting over drug routes into the lucrative U.S. market. In December, Ricardo Chávez, a reporter for Radio Cañón in Ciudad Juárez on the U.S. border, crossed over into the United States seeking asylum after two of his nephews were murdered and he received death threats. Days later the U.S. authorities granted him a humanitarian visa. Ciudad Juárez has become one of the world's most violent spots, according to human rights organisations. The number of drug-related killings in the first few days of 2010 has already topped 100. In early 2009, Jorge Aguirre, head of the news web site La Polaka in Ciudad Juárez, took refuge in the U.S. after receiving death threats. Journalists Emilio Gutiérrez, of the newspaper Diario del Noroeste in Sinaloa, and Horacio Nájera, a correspondent in Ciudad Juárez for the Mexico City daily Reforma, also fled across the border in 2008. "The significant thing is that they are all from the same area" - the northern states of Mexico, said RSF's Flores. RSF has also received reports that a number of journalists have given up their profession because of violence in the states of Michoacán, Durango, Chihuahua and Sonora, where drug cartels are powerful. Bereft of protection, reporters have nowhere to turn. "The media and journalists themselves should mobilise the public. Perhaps a bit more pressure on the authorities is needed. The right to freedom of information is being increasingly tightly restricted," Flores concluded. (END)Send your comments to the editor