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This is a joint posting with Cindy Prieto.
Since the coup ousting Honduran president Manuel Zelaya last June, the international community has responded with strong words and a mix of mostly mild actions. The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously voted to suspend Honduras when the de facto regime ignored its demand for the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya, and the UN General Assembly has also adopted a resolution denouncing the coup. The United States and European Union have halted some forms of non-humanitarian aid. But despite some calls for action , the United States and other major trade partners have yet to adopt trade sanctions or to freeze the coup leaders' assets.
On June 28, after months of tension over Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s plan to lift presidential term limits, armed soldiers hauled him in his pajamas out of his home and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. Looks like a coup to me. Later that day the Honduran Congress voted to remove Zelaya and swear in Roberto Micheletti, head of the Congress, as the new civilian president. Even so, it still sounds like a coup to me. So, all the news stories call it a coup.
Last week the Guardian reported that the Obama Administration has approached President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil about becoming the next President of the World Bank. Seems unlikely to me – for one thing it’s early, since Robert Zoellick’s term lasts another three years, and the Administration has many other fish it is frying right now.
How long should presidents rule? On Tuesday, Colombia’s senate approved a national referendum to amend the constitution—again—to allow the popular president Alvaro Uribe to stand for election next year to yet another term in office.
You should care because this is representative of a big phenomenon that spans the whole developing world. For good reasons, many developing countries built presidential term limits into their constitutions—the contracts that govern how people agree to be ruled by each other.
As President Obama was making his way to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago last week, many hoped for something more concrete than just a fresh start with our neighbors in Latin America, who felt neglected and ignored for the past eight years. Those of us hoping that the president might take the opportunity to announce plans to seek congressional approval for two trade agreements that have been pending for two years or more--with Panama and Colombia--were disappointed.
A friend who works in Wall Street was livid upon learning about the U.S. House of Representatives’ move to tax the controversial AIG bonuses at 90 percent. My friend—who is from Latin America and does not work at AIG—said that it looks like the United States is turning into Argentina. He was referring to last year when, in the midst of the commodity boom, the Argentine government attempted to raise the tax rate on the additional profits to around 90 percent and to increase its access to resources it nationalized the private pension plans.
What a difference 20 years can make. Twenty years ago, I was the World Bank point person organizing a response to the Houston G7 Summit's mandate to the bank and what was then called the European Community or EC to devise an Amazon forest protection program.