U.S.-Peru free trade pact
As one of his final official acts as U.S. President, George W. Bush signed the U.S.-Peru free trade pact which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in December 2007 after a stiff debate. The delay in signing the agreement stemmed from a variety of concerns over implementation. As reported by BBC, "Earlier this week, Democrats in the US Congress and development organisations said Peru had still not fulfilled key obligations to improve its labour rights and environmental standards and urged Mr Bush not to sign the deal." Some Peruvian farmers fear that subsidized U.S. agricultural imports will undercut home-grown agricultural produce, a concern that is not without merit. The U.S. Congress should reduce farm subsidies that distort domestic and international markets, and replace such measures with a reformed system of credits, which would be a better way to help tide farmers over in lean years.
Chilean inspectors seized at least 400 exotic animals from Peru that were discovered in cardboard boxes aboard a Chilean boat last week. The distressed creatures will be returned to Peru promptly. According to CNN.com, the smuggled cargo included "macaws, toucans, parrots, turtles, squirrels and crocodiles, most of them protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. ... The captain of the ship ... faces a possible fine of between $188,000 and $940,000..." Congratulations to the government of Chile for enforcing laws designed to protect Nature, which is often difficult in poor countries. It's another sign that Chile is joining the ranks of the developed world.
Costa Rica earthquake
An earthquake hit Costa Rica earlier this month, killing about three dozen people. It was centered in the mountains northwest of the capital city San Jose. See CNN.com. This is not far from the Volcano Poas where Jacqueline and I visited four years ago.
I have updated the chronology on the Brazil background information page.