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Panama Election, Ecuador & More

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Ron Kirk, Ricardo Martinelli, Hu Jintao and George Bush are among the personalities of this week's TradeTalk.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Ron Kirk New USTR
President-elect Barack Obama's has chosen former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as his U.S. Trade Representative. Kirk has been a strong and vocal supporter of NAFTA and free trade. The selection of Kirk follows the withdrawal of Obama's first choice for the job -- U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, who had opposed CAFTA. 

Panama: Business President?
After most polls showed that Balbina Herrera, a leftist from the ruling PRD party, would win next year's presidential elections, new surveys show that businessman Ricardo Martinelli now has a good chance of becoming the country's next leader. According to a Unimer poll published in La Prensa recently, Martinelli boasts 36.2 percent support versus 30.8 percent for Herrera.  Martinelli, 56, founded the Super 99 supermarket chain and was Canal Affairs Minister in the previous government

The McMillan Archives
Speaking of Panama. Former Panama Canal Commission Chairman Robert McMillan, the author of Global Passage has donated his complete collections of documents of the canal to his alma mater, Adelphi University. "I donated rather than keeping it as a way to preserve the collection so it would be available to others," he says. The materials go back to the 1500's and old Panama City through the efforts of the French, Theodore Roosevelt's success to the present day, including materials relating to the enlargement effort currently underway.  "There are many people who do research about Panama and the Canal [and] the collection makes it possible to gain access to the materials and preserve the collection well into the future," McMillan says.  The materials also will give an insight into the operation of the Board of the PCC when he served on it, first as a board member from 1989 to 1993, then as Chairman, from 1993 to 1994.  

Ecuador Recusal
Ecuador is getting a lot of unwelcome attention these days thanks to its decision to default its foreign debt. However, it has long also been under scrutiny for its farcical legal process against Chevron. In addition to a private lawsuit against the U.S. oil company for alleged environmental damages, Ecuador's government in September indicted two Chevron lawyers. Last week, however, Ecuadorian Prosecutor General Washington Pesantez recused himself from the government’s case against the lawyers since he last year had vindicated Chevron. At the time he said: “(There is)…no proof of civil, administrative, or criminal liability against the officers of the Ecuadorian Government…and the representatives of Texaco in relation to environmental damages which may have been inflicted in the Amazon region.” Chevron says that Washington's decision to recuse himself “illustrates the meritless nature of the Ecuadorian government’s persecution of our attorneys.  No new evidence has been presented and this decision by the Prosecutor General simply highlights the overwhelming body of evidence exonerating Texaco Petroleum as well as the conduct of its attorneys.”

Hu Wins
President George W. Bush can boast an impressive track record in Latin America, traveling to the region more than any other U.S. president. However, during the past four years, Bush received some serious competition from China's President Hu Jintau. The Chinese leader visited Latin America three times since 2004 and spent a total of 22 days in the region. That compares to 20 for Bush, according to Bloomberg
 

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