Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mag 5.0 Quake, Honduras, 10:22 AM Today

Mag: 5.0
Time: 30 Jun 2009 16:22:33 UTC
Location: 15.488N 86.442W
Depth: 25 km

15 km (9 miles) E (87 degrees) of Olanchito, Atlántida, Honduras
49 km (31 miles) SE (131 degrees) of La Ceiba, Atlántida, Honduras
50 km (31 miles) WSW (249 degrees) of Tocoa, Colón, Honduras
178 km (110 miles) NNE (28 degrees) of TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras

Zelaya Vows to Return to Honduras, Continue Presidency

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras' ousted president, bolstered by international support, said he will return home this week to regain control. The man who replaced him said Tuesday that Manuel Zelaya could be met with an arrest warrant.

The military coup on Sunday provoked nearly universal condemnation from governments of the Western Hemisphere, from President Barack Obama to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and it sparked clashes in the Honduran capital that have left dozens of people injured.

Flanked by Latin American leaders who have vowed to help him regain power, Manuel Zelaya said late Monday that Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza had agreed to accompany him back to Honduras.

But the man named by Honduras' Congress as interim president, Roberto Micheletti, indicated Tuesday that Zelaya would risk arrest if he returns because "the courts of my country have issued arrest orders" against him.

Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who has forged close ties with Chavez, said he wanted to return to Tegucigalpa on Thursday after attending a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to seek support from its 192 member nations.

See the rest of the story here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

IMF Communique Re. Meeting in Antigua, Guatemala

“Finance ministers, central bank governors, financial sector superintendents, IMF management and staff, and representatives of other international financial institutions met in Antigua, Guatemala, over the past two days to discuss key policy issues facing the region. The conference focused on the effects of the global crisis on the economies and financial sectors of the region, the policy responses that have been implemented in these countries, and lessons learned to guide future reforms."

“This year’s conference took place against the background of an unprecedented global financial and economic crisis. While the region has not been significantly affected by financial channels, where the crisis originated, economies in the region have been affected as a result of their strong external linkages with the United States and other advanced economies. Conference participants agreed that these shocks pose complex policy challenges, yet stressed that Central America is in a better position to weather the storm today than in the past."

“Participants discussed the impact of the global crisis on the financial systems of the region. While the crisis generated a significant reduction in foreign funding, financial systems in the region have held up well, in part because of a relatively low reliance on external credit and limited exposure to “toxic” assets and also due to the quick response of the authorities."

“Participants noted that the growth outlook in the region will continue to be affected by external developments, and highlighted that the region has adopted appropriate policy measures to mitigate the impact on growth and poverty. In particular, they stressed the increase in conditional cash transfers to vulnerable segments of the population; higher infrastructure spending; and the expansion in funding for health and education programs. Participants also emphasized the beneficial impact on inflation from lower commodity prices, which has allowed greater flexibility to monetary policy in some countries to help mitigate the impact of the crisis on domestic economies. They also welcomed the backing of multilateral lenders in providing increased funding and asked for continued support."

Read the full IMF communique here.

Honduran President Arrested

Troops in Honduras have arrested the president ahead of a referendum on plans to change the constitution.

President Manuel Zelaya's secretary said he had been taken to an airbase outside the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wanted a vote to extend his time in office.

The referendum, due on Sunday, had been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and was also opposed by Congress and members of Mr Zelaya's own party.

A reporter for the Associated Press news agency said he had seen dozens of soldiers surround the president's house on Sunday morning and about 60 police guarding the house.

Two air force fighter jets screamed over the capital, reported Reuters news agency.

'Coup plot'

The arrest comes after President Zelaya defied a court order that he should re-instate the chief of the army, Gen Romeo Vasquez.

The president sacked Gen Vasquez late on Wednesday for refusing to help him organise a referendum.

Mr Zelaya also accepted the resignation of the defence minister.

In an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper published on Sunday, Mr Zelaya - an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - said a planned coup attempt against him had been thwarted after the US refused to back it.

"Everything was in place for the coup and if the US embassy had approved it, it would have happened. But they did not," Mr Zelaya said.

"I'm only still here in office thanks to the United States."

Mr Zelaya's arrest took place an hour before polls were due to open.

Ballot boxes and other voting materials had been distributed by Mr Zelaya's supporters and government employees throughout the Central American country.

Rumours swirled in the Honduran media about the president's fate.

"We're talking about a coup d'etat," Rafael Alegria, a union leader and Zelaya ally, told Honduran radio Cadena de Noticias, reports AP. "This is regrettable."

He reportedly said shots had been fired during the president's arrest.

Meanwhile, Honduran radio station HRN said Mr Zelaya had been sent into exile, and possibly flown on the presidential plane to Venezuela.

On Thursday, the Honduran Congress approved plans to investigate whether the president should be declared unfit to rule.

"We have tried to avoid breaching a constitutional order and sidestep a coup," said Congressional President Roberto Micheletti, a member of Mr Zelaya's own Liberal Party.

Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Honduras' leaders to "act with full respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions".

The political crisis has stoked tensions in Honduras, an impoverished coffee and banana-exporting nation of more than 7 million people.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dangerous Political Developments in Honduras

The political situation in neighboring Honduras is volatile and unstable right now. For more details see the following four article snippets:

Congress Has Late Night Session

The Honduran Congress passed a new law on Tuesday, after an unusual late-night legislative session. The measure, called the Ley Especial que Regula el Referéndum y el Plebiscito, establishes specific restrictions on the power of the executive to call for national referendums by prohibiting plebiscites and referendums 180 days before or after a national election.

Prior to Tuesday’s development, President Zelaya had scheduled a vote for June 28 on whether to convene a constituent assembly to re-write the Honduran Constitution. Plans for the referendum provoked widespread criticism throughout Honduras, and were declared illegal by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and the Human Rights Ombudsman, but President Zelaya vowed to press forward with the vote.


Central America, Be On Guard

For a long time now, Hondurans who have been worried about their democracy and also worried about the way in which their President Manuel Zelaya is governing, see with mistrust and, more than this, with rejection, a projected constitutional reform, under this name or another, to allow the reelection of the president. Logically, not much political cunning, is needed to realize that the president, who is fully identified with the totalitarian tyranny of Fidel Castro and with arbitrary rulers in the region, led by Hugo Chávez, is trying to subvert the State’s juridical order under a democratic guise. However, this is subversion with anti-democratic orientation.


Honduran VP Talks to the UN

Vice President of Honduras, Aristides Mejia Carranza, spoke today at the United Nations General Assembly, the first day of a three-day conference on the world’s economic crisis, in which 140 countries are participating.

Carranza stated that this year, a decline in remittances, exports, and tourism have meant a reduction of economic growth for Honduras. It is at a mere two percent. Although that is better than the global average, it does little to help the Honduran economy, and may hinder the progress Honduras has made in reducing poverty during the past few years.


OAS Asked to Withdraw from Election Observations

The Organization of American States planned to send three election observers to oversee the voting on a referendum for constitutional reform, called for by President Zelaya. The Honduran Congress, however, voted unanimously to ask that they do not send observers, as their presence would indicate that the vote is actually legitimate, rather than illegal.

Congressional President Roberto Micheletti, of the Liberal Party, stated “We express to the secretary-general of the Organization of American States our profound indignation over the deployment of this mission to the country.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Guatemalan Government Negotiates Purchase of Maya Fortress Site

The Guatemalan government is negotiating the purchase of land holding the ruins of Zaculeu, a Maya fortress that served as a trench against the advance of the Spaniards, in the northwestern province of Huehuetenango, Culture Minister Jeronimo Lancerio said.

In a statement published Saturday in the daily Prensa Libre, Lancerio said that he is personally negotiating the purchase with the family that owns the property with a complex of buildings from the post-classic Maya period.

"We want to buy this site so that it becomes property of the state and is administered by the Culture Ministry," the official said.

Lancerio did not reveal the identity of the owners nor the amount of money the state is offering to buy Zaculeu, merely stating that he hoped to wind up negotiations by 2010.

The minister said that once the state buys the land, it will invest in a museum and a handicrafts market in order to benefit the artisans of Huehuetenango.

The Zaculeu archaeological site is located some 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) from the city of Huehuetenango, capital of the like-named province, and history says that around the year 1524 it was the fortress of the Mam ethnicity where for two months their king, Kaibil Balam, dug in to hold off the advancing Spaniards.

Zaculeu influenced and was in turn influenced by the cultures of Guatemala's central region, above all Kaminal Juyu, and according to archaeological research, it was an essential post for trade with Mexico.

The name K'iche' that the archaeological site was given is related to a king named Zakuleu and was declared a Pre-Columbian Monument by government decree on April 24, 1931.

The site is made up of a series of plazas, stepped pyramids, ceremonial temples and a patio for playing ball, a display of Maya splendor.

Its buildings date to the Maya post-classic period (900 A.D. until the arrival of the Spaniards), though the city was originally settled in the 5th century, and unlike other archaeological centers, its buildings are low, flat and without decorations.

The name Zaculeu comes from the words "zac" meaning white and "uleu" meaning land, and the ruins are located on a small mesa surrounded by ravines.

EFE

Thursday, June 18, 2009

8,200 Locations in Guatemala at Risk from Landslides

Forty percent of the country, 8,200 locations, are at risk from landslides due to rain and earthquakes. Disaster relief groups are on alert and ready to respond to any emergency, but nobody wants to talk about prevention.

Enrique Molina, head of seismology at the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH), reports that geological conditions, soil composition, level of inclination of the terrain, and the moisture, result in 40 percent of the country being susceptible to landslides.

Rain and earthquakes are the main triggers of collapse. Caution is recommended for drivers who travel on the country's roads, especially in times of heavy rainfall.

"An earth tremor during the rainy season doubles the risk from mudslides and landslides due to the saturation of the soil with moisture. If the 1976 earthquake had occurred during the months of greater rainfall, the tragedy would have been much worse," explained Molina.

Another factor increasing the disaster risk is population growth, particularly when people build on slopes or sloping areas.

The areas most susceptible to landslides due to inclination of the terrain are the mountainous areas, including the volcanic areas and areas such as the Sierra de las Minas. Throughout the country there are the scars of past landslides.

The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) identified 8.200 places at risk from flooding and collapse in the country.

Juan Pablo Oliva, director of risk management for Conred, says the risk is greater this year due to the increasing magnitude of earthquakes. He stresses that the risk has always existed but the construction of human settlements in high risk areas means that each passing year increases the number of possible victims.

A report by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources reports that 64 percent of the country has a high level of soil degradation. 70 percent of the country is deforested. Each year there are between 80 million and 90 million metric tons of soil lost to erosion, 10 times the average of other countries. This is because of the activity of people and the population is doubling every 20 years.

Quetzaltenango

Concepción Chiquirichapa, San Martín Sacatepéquez, and San Juan Ostuncalco are three municipalities of Quetzaltenango where large landslides are feared due to the sandy soil.

Due to deforestation, Cerro Quemado in Almolonga, Quetzaltenango, suffers constant mudslides and major landslides are feared.

The route between Zunil and Cantel is almost constantly blocked from landslides along the road.

Sololá

Cerro Lec, between San Andrés Semetabaj and Panajachel, Sololá, has several recently discovered cracks and residents of nearby aldeas fear collapses.

In San Lucas Tolimán, the volcano of the same name has areas of loose soil due to intense deforestation and could slide in heavy rains.

Due to steep slopes, residents of the village Pujujil in the departmental capital fear landslides occur when the rainy season comes.

Recently, an earthquake triggered a slide at kilometer 155 of the Trans American Highway at Nahualá, which blocked the road.

San Marcos

Cerro Jocol in the village of Las Barrancas, San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, is a constant threat to the people who lived through the 2003 tragedy when 22 people died during a large collapse.

In the same town, the aldea Piedra Grande is at risk from a nearby hill where a collapse killed dozens of people in 2005.

Near kilometer 133.5 of the route to Las Verapaces, saturation moisture is causing the soil surface to slide and the pavement has sunk by half a meter. The concern is that if this road collapses the Verapaces will be cut off from the capital.

Cerro Los Chorros suffered a slide last January 4th that left 34 dead. Residents are worried that it will happen again. Despite the risk, the road is still used because the other option means a 1-1/2 hour walk.

Last August, a slide on the hill at Las Casas, Cobán, buried a house.

Actions

Alejandro Maldonado, executive secretary of Conred indicates that it is working on the strengthening of embankments where it considers that collapse is most likely. Continuous studies are done where the movement of soil has occured such as La Union, Zacapa, and San Cristóbal Verapaz , Alta Verapaz.

Conred has also acquired the ability to monitor landslides by satellite. Conred also says that the mayors in areas at risk are kept informed of risk factors such as rain or floods.

Certain social organizations are of the opinion that the government has no plans to prevent or mitigate landslide disasters so we can expect the death toll to rise each year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Tropical Wave of the Season Arriving Now

All the activity you see in the sky right now is the arrival of our first true tropical wave of the season.

Unfortunately, the high over the Gulf of Mexico is moving slowly east but is still there, blocking airflows, so it's hard to say if this wave will trigger much. It doesn't have as much to work with as it should in terms of unstable air.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rainfall for the First Nine Days of June

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rainy Season is About to Begin (Finally)

The rainy season in Guatemala normally begins by the first of June. This year, the start of the rains has been delayed and the country has been subjected to high temperatures. It's estimated that damage to corn and bean crops is already around 25 to 35 percent. The problem has been especially bad in the areas around Zacapa / Chiquimula.

The cause of the delay is a stationary high that has been stuck over the Gulf of Mexico. Computer models indicate that this high will finally begin to move east tomorrow. With this high out of the way, the normal circulation patterns will set in and the rains should finally begin. The prediction from INSIVUMEH is that the rains will begin on Tuesday.

If you take a look at the Maya Paradise weather page, you can see the high that's been the problem and say good-bye to the cause of our discomfort for the past two weeks:

http://www.mayaparaiso.com/weather.php

Two Towns Asked to Close all Public Venues

Two towns in Guatemala have been asked by the government to close down nearly all public venues to prevent the spread of swine flu.

Health Secretary Celso Cerezo said the virus has infected 96 people in Guatemala, including 11 in the last 24 hours.

On Wednesday, Guatemala suspended all schools nationwide until at least July 1.

Cerezo said most of the cases have been reported in two small southern towns, Palin and Santa Lucia. The government recommended Friday that those towns close restaurants, bars movie, theaters, churches and other public venues until the epidemic subsides.

4.8 Quake Shakes Coban

A magnitude 4.8 quake rattle Coban and surrounding areas at 8:15 AM this morning.

The quake's epicenter was 15 miles west of Coban, Alta Verapaz, at a depth of 41 miles.

There are no reports of damage or injury yet.

Preliminary data:

Mag: 4.8

Time:
Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 14:18:23 UTC
Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 08:18:23 AM at epicenter

Location: 15.454°N, 90.536°W
Depth: 66.6 km (41.4 miles)

Distances:
25 km (15 miles) W of Coban, Guatemala
90 km (55 miles) N of GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala
125 km (75 miles) ENE of Quezaltenango, Guatemala
1020 km (630 miles) ESE of MEXICO CITY, D.F., Mexico

Friday, June 12, 2009

Child with Swine Flu Dies in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY—A 12-year-old boy has become Guatemala's first fatality linked to swine flu, officials said, as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose by eight to 74.

Health Minister Celso Cerezo said late Wednesday the boy had been placed in a private hospital where a diagnosis showed he died from kidney failure, although it also confirmed he was stricken with A(H1N1), the virus threatening to spread to global pandemic status.

The government confirmed eight more cases, in five girls all age 12, two women age 21 and 31, and a 68-year-old man.

Guatemala is the eighth nation to report a death linked to swine flu. All are in the Americas and the Caribbean.

Guatemala shares a border with Mexico, the early epicenter of the swine flu outbreak.

"The A flu situation in Guatemala is categorized as an epidemic, while the global level is already a pandemic," Cerezo said.

The minister was getting ahead of the World Health Organization, which said it was consulting Thursday with its emergency committee of flu experts who could recommend the declaration of a swine flu pandemic.

Since the A(H1N1) virus was first discovered in the United States and Mexico in April, some 74 countries have reported 27,737 cases including 141 deaths to the WHO.

--French Press Agency

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WHO Declares Phase 6 Pandemic

GENEVA – The World Health Organization declared a swine flu pandemic Thursday — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years — as infections in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere climbed to nearly 30,000 cases.

The long-awaited pandemic announcement is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe. WHO will now ask drugmakers to speed up production of a swine flu vaccine. The declaration will also prompt governments to devote more money toward efforts to contain the virus.

WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan made the announcement Thursday after the U.N. agency held an emergency meeting with flu experts. Chan said she was moving the world to phase 6 — the agency's highest alert level — which means a pandemic, or global epidemic, is under way.

"The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century," Chan told reporters. "The (swine flu) virus is now unstoppable."

On Thursday, WHO said 74 countries had reported 28,774 cases of swine flu, including 144 deaths. Chan described the virus as "moderate." According to WHO's pandemic criteria, a global outbreak has begun when a new flu virus begins spreading in two world regions.

The agency has stressed that most cases are mild and require no treatment, but the fear is that a rash of new infections could overwhelm hospitals and health authorities — especially in poorer countries.

Still, about half of the people who have died from swine flu were previously young and healthy — people who are not usually susceptible to flu. Swine flu is also crowding out regular flu viruses. Both features are typical of pandemic flu viruses.

See more here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Despite the alarming sound of all the developments and spread of the H1N1 virus, there is no need to become alarmed -- yet. Bear in mind that thus far, the H1N1 flu has affected far fewer people than seasonal flu does every year. It has also killed far fewer people than are killed by seasonal flu every year. The swine flu is potentially capable of becoming a big problem and what the Phase 6 declaration says is that the virus has spread throughout the world in a way that qualifies it as a pandemic, increasing the potential for it to become a major problem. But as yet it is still not a major problem.

When viewed alongside the annual cases and deaths from flu that occur every year, the H1N1 pandemic is just a small blip in the statistics. Phase 6 means that H1N1 strain, which is a more dangerous strain than seasonal flu, has demonstrated its ability to spread throughout the world's population, signifying the very real potential for it to become a big problem. It's a warning. It means that countries and their health care systems need to prepare themselves for the possibility of having to handle a large number (millions) of cases of this flu.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WHO About to Declare A(H1N1) Pandemic

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) is on the verge of declaring the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years, but wants to ensure countries are well prepared to prevent a panic, its top flu expert said on Tuesday.

Keiji Fukuda, acting WHO assistant director-general, voiced concern at the sustained spread of the new H1N1 strain -- including more than 1,000 cases in Australia -- following major outbreaks in North America, where it emerged in April.

Confirmed community spread in a second region beyond North America would trigger moving to phase 6 -- signifying a full-blown pandemic -- from the current phase 5 on the WHO's 6-level pandemic alert scale.

"The situation has really evolved a lot over the past several days. We are getting really very close to knowing that we are in a pandemic situation, or I think, declaring that we are in a pandemic situation," Fukuda told a teleconference.

Fukuda said a move to phase 6 would reflect the geographic spread of the new disease.

"It does not mean that the severity of the situation has increased or that people are getting seriously sick at higher numbers or higher rates than they are right now," he said.

A decision to declare a pandemic involved more than simply making an announcement, he said. The United Nations agency had to ensure that countries were able to deal with the new situation and also handle any public reaction.

"One of the critical issues is that we do not want people to 'over-panic' if they hear that we are in a pandemic situation. That they understand, for example, that the current assessment of the situation is that this is a moderate level," Fukuda said.

The WHO and its 193 member states are working hard to prepare for a pandemic, for instance developing vaccines and building up supplies of anti-viral drugs, he said.

The disease, which has infected over 26,500 people in 73 countries, with 140 deaths, has been most severe in Mexico, which has reported the highest number of fatalities, more than 100. These include infections in otherwise healthy young people.

See more of the story here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mexican drug gangs move to Guatemala

AMATITLAN, Guatemala, June 4 (UPI) -- Mexican drug gangs are moving operations to Guatemala, where weak law enforcement and deep-rooted corruption provide fertile ground, officials and analysts say.

Since early 2008, organized Mexican drug gangs, including a criminal mercenary army known as Los Zetas, the armed wing of Mexico's so-called Gulf Cartel, have moved into Guatemala's northern and eastern provinces, the Los Angeles Times reports.

They're ramping up to escape Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 2 1/2 -year offensive against narcotics traffickers, which is hurting the cartel's international drug shipments, the Times says.

"They're looking for new areas," said a U.S. official who spoke with the Times on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment on the matter. "They need a place where they can operate with impunity."

More than 6,000 people were killed in Guatemala in 2008, with most killings linked to the drug trade, police say.

The spreading influence of Mexican traffickers has Guatemalan authorities on edge and is stirring concern in Washington that powerful drug gangs could imperil fragile Guatemala and its weak neighbor, Honduras, the Times says.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the Zetas may be the region's "most technologically advanced, sophisticated and violent" paramilitary enforcement group.

UPI

'Moniac' in Guatemala

The following is an interesting and unusual story to appear in news about Guatemala:

In the New York Times, there is an interesting story about a hydraulic analog computer from 1949 used to model the feedback loops in the economy. According to the article, 'copies of the 'Moniac,' as it became known in the United States, were built and sold to Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Ford Motor Company and the Central Bank of Guatemala, among others.' There is a cool video of the computer in operation at Cambridge University. I remember that the Instrumentation Lab at MIT still had an analog computer in its computer center in the mid-1970s. Even then, it seemed archaic, and now this form of computation is largely forgotten. With 14 machines built, it must have been one of the more successful analog computers — a supercomputer of its day. Of course, you have to wonder if it could have been used to predict our current economic difficulties.
From Slashdot

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still No Trace of Rosenberg Documents

Investigators still do not know where the lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg left the documents mentioned in the video he recorded three days before his assassination. The video in which he incriminates a network of organized crime and accuses President Alvaro Colom and his wife, Gustavo Alejos, private secretary of the Presidency, two businessmen and two bankers, touched off a major controversy.

24 days after the murder of Rosenberg, the detectives dealing with the evidence that he allegedly left said: "It's like finding a needle in a haystack."

In the video, Rosenberg said that he has evidence of why the renowned businessman Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie were killed.

In the recording, he mentioned eight separate proofs to incriminate Colom, his wife, Sandra Torres, Alejos and businessman Gregorio Valdes.

Rosenberg also pointed to Jose Angel Lopez and Fernando Peña, senior executives of the Rural Development Bank (Banrural), Gerardo de Leon and, of Federation of Coffee Cooperatives of Guatemala.

"I am leaving the originals of what I'm saying so that it is not said, as has happened in other cases, that this is a conspiracy," said Rosenberg at the end of the recording.

The investigation has attempted to find the whereabouts of these documents but it is now known that they were not left with his family, or with the friends who recorded and distributed the video, nor are they at Rosenberg's business.

The big question therefore remains: where is or was the documentation mentioned in the video and who has it?

Cuba no Longer Suspended from the OAS (Organization of American States)

The foreign ministers participating in the 29th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) reached an agreement to rescind the suspension of Cuba that was approved in 1962.

Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Fander Falconí announced the decision. "It has been approved and by all the foreign ministers by consensus. This is very good news, reflecting the change in the times we are living in Latin America," said Falconi.

The Ecuadorian minister explained that "there is a consensus on a document that unconditionally eliminates the exclusion of Cuba that was enacted in 1962."

"Many of us were born at that time and what this generation is doing is basically amending history. Here we have a chance to build a different story," he added.

The decision was made in the evening after a special group appointed by the ministers had met for over six hours without reaching consensus.

The divergent positions were of those who were advocating a repeal of the suspension, without conditions, and those who proposed the mention of the need for Cuba to accept the commitments of democracy and human rights adopted by other members of the organization.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Two More Cases of H1N1 in Guatemala and a Summary of All Cases to Date

The Minister of Health,Celso Cerezo, has reported two more cases of influenza A (H1N1), bringing the total number of infected to 14.

The two new cases are a woman living in Petén, but who had recently traveled to Honduras. The other case is a 12 year old child living in Chinautla who was infected by a college student from Capoulliez College. The two are neighbors. The school suspended classes last week due to the infected student.

When asked about the number of schools that were closed because of the flu, Cerezo said that at the moment the only schools closed are Capoulliez College in Zone 11 and El Shaddai in Zone 16. However, it was learned that classes were also suspended at the Colegio Sagrado Corazón de El Naranjo because some students there have become ill.

The health minister added that if at any time it becomes necessary to close the public schools, the Education Minister, Ana de Molina is ready.

The last case which had been announced by the minister was a teenager of 17 who lives in Antigua Guatemala, who showed symptoms of the virus and went to the hospital in Antigua. The case was referred to the Ministry of Health to verify symptomatology and the result was positive. In this case, nobody in the family had traveled abroad.

During a press conference, Cerezo said that more cases are anticipated in the next few days. He also pointed out that cases of influenza normally spike every year during the rainy season.

Meanwhile, in statements given this morning, Vice President Rafael Espada said that influenza A is under control in the country and no state of emergency exists.

Last Friday, four other cases were reported, including an 11 year old girl from Villa Nueva, who had recently traveled to United States, another child under 6 years of age from the Colonia Nueva Monserrat, Mixco, a young man of 18, from Escuintla, who returned from Honduras last week, and a woman of 32, who is now in a hospital in Salamá, Baja Verapaz. She also had returned a few days before from Honduras. All were being administered the antiviral Tamiflu and are under surveillance, said Cerezo.

These cases are in addition to the seven that had been announced weeks ago. Another 50 people are under observation because they have had direct contact with patients who have tested positive.