sábado, 11 de mayo de 2019

Mexico City, Oaxaca vote to ban single-use plastics

The legislature of Mexico City voted on 10 May to ban the "use and distribution" of disposable plastics in the capital from 2020. Almost all members voted to gradually enforce the ban, intended to reduce the mountain of trash the city generates daily. Similar measures being enacted across Mexico typically affect items like bags, straws, styrofoam trays or coffee lids. Mexico City would allow shops to hand out bags if these could degrade entirely within 90 days of disposal, though it was not clear if such bags presently exist in Mexico. The measure will include coffee capsules from 2021, Milenio reported. The state of Puebla also voted on 24 April to ban disposable plastics from 2020, first enforcing the measure in the state capital Puebla, with a population of 1.6 million. Both states would complement the bans with informative campaigns. The southern state of Oaxaca and eastern state of Tabasco have also approved restrictions. Oaxaca voted a gradual ban in early April, with enforcement beginning in government offices, which could no longer buy, use or distribute throwaway plastics, the website Prensa Latina reported on 15 April. Greenpeace in Mexico estimated in early 2019 that the country produced some 10,000 tonnes of plastic trash daily.

lunes, 22 de abril de 2019

Plastic straws, bag production "falling" in Mexico

A spokesman for the plastics sector in Mexico recently said "more than 60 per cent" of manufacturers of plastic straws had disappeared in the country, due to falling demand and anti-plastic campaigns. Aldimir Torres, president of the National Association of Plastic Industries (ANIPAC) told a conference in early April that some 80 initiatives were targeting plastics products in Mexico, but insisted the sector believed recycling remained the best way to curb pollution by plastics, El Financiero reported. He said bag makers in Mexico were now working at between "30 and 70 per cent capacity," and the sector had already shed 8.5 per cent of its workers, for falling demand. Hidalgo and Guerrero became two more Mexican states in late March to legislate against plastic products. State lawmakers in Hidalgo voted to give shops 180 days to implement a plastics ban approved in 2018, the website Xataka México reported. In Guerrero, legislators reformed the state's trash disposal laws to forbid "the use of" plastic bags and "provision" of single-use items like straws, cutlery and styrofoam trays, Xataka reported. It was not immediately clear when this would happen and whether or not the ban covered selling the items.

lunes, 1 de abril de 2019

New York State bans plastic grocery bags from 2020

The state of New York has banned the distribution of single-use plastic bags after 1 March 2020, media reported on 31 March, becoming the second U.S. state with California, to impose a state-wide ban. The measure passed by its legislature that day was part of the state budget for 2020, and includes other environmental measures like making cars pay to enter mid-town Manhattan. The ban would presumably supercede the bag fee New York city imposed in 2016. A third U.S. state, Hawaii, and a number of districts restrict bags through local legislation.

martes, 8 de enero de 2019

Mexican state starts enforcing plastics ban

The state of Tamaulipas in north-eastern Mexico began enforcing a ban on the sale and distribution of plastic bags on 1 January, following a vote by the state legislature in September 2018. The ban was on the distribution of bags that did not contain at least 30 per cent degradable material, though press and agency reports did not specify if businesses could make or access such bags. Reports suggested authorities would not yet fine offending outlets in the state's 43 districts, stating there would be inspections initially to verify compliance. Tamaulipas became the fourth state in Mexico (after Querétaro, Veracruz and Baja California Sur) to restrict plastics or plastic bags, as papers reported Durango, Sonora, Nuevo León and Mexico City as working on similar restrictions. The legislature of the state of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean was also considering amending local laws to restrict or ban plastic bags and straws, La Jornada reported on 7 January.

viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2018

Bogotá rolls out new, streetside trash containers

The Bogotá city government began placing new trash containers around the capital in late November, and was observing their usage in an initial adaptation phase. The containers, as shown on news websites, were very similar to those used in Spanish cities like Barcelona and Valencia, and require residents to bin their trash outside buildings. The city government believes they are cleaner and will encourage people to separate trash, and intends to place 10,744 containers around the capital. These have either white lids, for recyclables like plastic, paper and cans, or black lids, for all other trash including food remains. The broadcaster Caracol noted on Christmas Day that some residents were already confused by or indifferent to the distinction, as certain bins contained the wrong sort of rubbish. Others had been vandalized or sprayed, though "no more than one per cent," according to the head of trash collection at the Special Administrative Unit for Public Services, the office running various city services, Yanlicer Pérez.

jueves, 27 de diciembre de 2018

Shops in Ensenada, Baja California, "to stop" giving out plastic bags

The coastal city of Ensenada in north-western Mexico was to enforce a ban on free plastic bags and utensils from 1 January 2019, following a municipal council vote in July 2018 intended to curb plastic pollution. This was an amendment to Article 43 of the district Regulations on Environmental Quality Controls, El Vigía, a local newspaper, reported on 27 December. The daily was unsure whether or not the city had clarified the mechanics of enforcing the ban, but stated that stores had already begun informing customers of impending changes. The Ensenada council voted in May 2018 to join the UN's Clean Seas initiative, committing itself to curbing use of plastics and cosmetic microbeads.

domingo, 23 de diciembre de 2018

Industrialist says anti-plastic campaigns in Mexico "hitting" sector

Public campaigns in Mexico against straws and plastic bags were changing consumption patterns and "hurting" the industry, a sector spokesman was reported as saying on 22 December. Aldimir Torres Arenas, head of the National Association of Plastic Industries (ANIPAC), said campaigns like the Environment Ministry (SEMARNAT)'s "Fine Without a Straw" were hitting firms' revenues "by 10 and up to 30 per cent" and one firm had already shut, the daily Publimetro reported. He said "we recognize there is a solid waste problem reaching our forests, streets and seas," referring to massive worldwide accumulation of trash on land and seas. But he warned curbing consumption would affect jobs, and said packacing represents "47 per cent of the national GDP." Plastic, he said, was a "technological marvel" and costly resource that should not be wasted. The daily gave 650 as the average number of plastic bags a Mexican uses every year, and reported sales of plastics to be worth $30 billion a year.

viernes, 21 de diciembre de 2018

Mexico state votes to curb plastic packaging, straws

The legislature of the northern Mexican state of Coahuila voted on 17 December to ban the distribution and use of plastic bags, polystyrene packaging and straws in that state from 2020, in a bid to curb massive plastic pollution, newspapers and the Notimex agency reported. The norm, an amendment to the state's Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, was to specify in time sanctions for offenders and propose biodegradable alternatives to the plastic subject to the ban, the broadcaster Televisa reported on 19 December. The regional newspaper Vanguardia observed that the norm should enter into force in late 2019 or early 2020, and given its eight-month adaptation period, curbs should start taking effect by September that year. It expressed doubts however that people would respect the ban.

miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2018

Ban curbs plastic bag use in Mexican city

Restrictions on the use of carrier bags in Querétaro, a district north-east of Mexico City, have caused a drop of "up to 30%" in business for regional manufacturers, the local Diario de Querétaro reported on December 19, citing an industry spokesman. Venancio Pérez Gómez said a municipal ban had "hit" the five or so firms making bags in the state of Querétaro "by 20 or 30%" in 2018, as "shops have stopped buying." Gómez, head of the plastic makers' association Clúster de Plásticos Querétaro, observed however that the sector as a whole had grown by six to seven per cent over 2018. The same newspaper had reported in early September an 80% drop in bag distribution in shops following the ban. It cited the city's chief environmental officer Martha Patricia Vargas Salgado as giving the previous level of bag consumption in the city as "two million bags," without further details. The city, she said then, was discussing with industry improving environmental norms for permitted bags like trash or bin bags.

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2018

Peru legislates to curb plastics

Parliament in Peru voted on 5 December to gradually curb the use and sale of plastic bags and disposable items to reduce plastic pollution, Agence France-Presse and local media reported. The Plastics Law, approved almost unanimously in Congress, would cut bag use by 35% in its first year, and targets other items like straws, to be banned within a year, packaging, thin plastic bags and wrappings for brochures. The law forbids the manufacture of non-degradable, plastic bags and packaging after 28 July, 2021, La República reported on 5 December. It cited the Environment Ministry as putting Peru's annual plastic consumption at 947,000 tonnes, 75% of which was dumped as trash, "with only 0.3% being recycled." Other sources gave different figures here but broadly speaking, most plastic used in Peru accumulates as trash. El Peruano reported on 28 December that the government wants shops to start charging 10 Peruvian cents (about 0.02 euros) per bag in 2019, with the fee rising to 50 cents in 2023 and more thereafter.

jueves, 10 de mayo de 2018

Medellín recycling machines to multiply after initial success

A pilot scheme in Medellín to encourage residents to recycle cans, glass and plastic bottles by giving them transport credit gathered thousands of containers within four months of its start in September 2017, and was set to expand from one machine, organizers stated in March 2018. Ciclo, the firm founded by local engineering students, stated that its container in the Universidad metro station gathered almost 5,000 bottles and cans just on April 24, designated a car-free day in Medellín. From September to the end of 2017, over 4,500 commuters used the machine to recycle 440,000 bottles and cans, earning enough credit for over 11,000 metro trips in that time. That amounted to taking 200 cars off the road and not emitting 22 tonnes of CO2, El Espectador reported on March 22. With the scheme's success, the metro authority stated in early April that the city would have five machines in the city by the end of 2018.

Chile mulling general ban on plastic bags

Chile's government presented its proposals to parliament on 8 May for a nationwide ban on "the use of plastic bags in shops," media reported. President Sebastián Piñera wrote on Twitter that "we do not want more bags polluting our cities, countryside, beaches and seas." The initiative is meant to substitute the earlier 2017 ban on plastic bag distribution in 102 seaside districts. The Government states that Chile currently produced 3.4 billion plastic bags a year and that residents of Santiago alone used 62.2 million bags a year, CNN reported. Some eight million tonnes of plastic are stated as ending up in the world's oceans every year, according to NGOs like Plastic Oceans, with increasing reports of wildlife choking on them. In late April, the Environment Minister Marcela Cubillos specified that the measure would include "so-called biodegradable" bags, and go into force within a year of approval and publication in the official gazette, or two years for smaller businesses. Meanwhile, she added, businesses could hand customers a maximum of two plastic bags for every purchase, the national daily El Mercurio reported on 27 April.

jueves, 24 de agosto de 2017

Medellín to encourage residents to pay for transport by recycling

Medellín in Colombia will begin in September a pilot scheme allowing people to exchange plastic bottles, glass or cans for metro transport credit. The scheme will begin with one functioning machine in the Universidad station, which will recharge your Civic Card or transport card as it receives cans or bottles, El Colombiano reported on 24 August. "The machine has no transaction limits," Luis  Felipe Restrepo, a spokesman for Ciclo, the firm making the machines, told the daily. "That means in each transaction, the user can exchange anything from a glass or plastic bottle, or a can, and get 50 pesos in credit," he said. An underground ticket in Medellín typically costs around 2,000 pesos (just over 0.5 euros), which Restrepo said amounted to "more or less 40 bottles." He added the machine could receive PET bottles of up to three litres, and would pay more for bigger bottles. Bottles he said, must be "in shape" and "not too mangled... they do not have to be totally washed, but must be without their content."

viernes, 11 de agosto de 2017

Panama votes to restrict plastic bags

Parliament in Panama voted on 10 August to approve a bill to gradually restrict the distribution of disposable plastic bags nationwide, in a bid to curb pollution by what the parliamentary website termed "deadly plastic." Its specifics were to be clarified by ministries within weeks. The Legislative Assembly ruled that pursuant to Law 492, shops must replace plastic bags with "containers made of non-polluting material or reusable plastic," no later than 24 months after the law's promulgation. The Environment Ministry would have to define within 15 days after promulgation the "technical specifiations" of these new bags, while consumer protection authorities would in time set penalties for violating the law. One of the legislators who proposed the law, Samir Gozaine, was cited as saying that biodegradable bags could technically already be made, though the website did not give details. He separately described the vote as in line with a "global movement" against plastic pollution. Shortly before the vote, an industry representative, Alfredo Villaverde, told the broadcaster TVN that bags were not the problem, but people's conduct. "All these bags can be recycled," he said, and did not "reach rivers and the sea alone." Spain's EFE agency reported on 10 August that the law seeks to cut plastic consumption by 20 per cent, over an unspecified time.

sábado, 5 de agosto de 2017

Colombian daily reports fall in plastic sales after bag fee

La Nación, a newspaper from south-western Colombia, reported on 5 August a decline of around 25 per cent in sales of plastic bags in Colombia in the first six months of 2017, after the government decreed earlier people must pay for most types given out in shops. It qualified the move intended to curb pollution, as a problem for the sector, though it observed businesses were already looking at alternatives like providing paper bags. Colombians, it reported, must now pay 20 Colombian pesos (a negligible amount in euros) for a typical supermarket bag, a fee set to rise to 50 pesos by 2020. The government has banned the distribution of the thinnest bags. La Nación cited the head of Agroplásticos, which represents plastic and rubber interests, as saying that bag sales were in July 2017, 25 per cent below those of that month in 2016. But it also cited a manager of Induplast, a regional firm, Miriam Mosquera, as saying that the government seemed to have ignored the impact of restrictions on livelihoods, and "if the state really wants to contribute to the environment, it must promote other types of campaigns." The broadcaster Caracol similarly reported in late July a 27 per cent fall in use of plastic bags, apparently since March 2017. La Nación provided some figures on plastic consumption in Colombia, apparently taken from DANE, the state statistics office. Around 14 million plastic bags were sold in Colombia annually, and the fee was expected to reduce demand overall this year by 30 per cent, it stated.

miércoles, 4 de enero de 2017

Buenos Aires bans shops from handing out plastic bags

A ban on shops handing out disposable plastic bags went into effect in Buenos Aires on 1 January, after the lawcourts ruled it was legal and rejected a challenge by the sector. EFE news agency termed the move the culmination of a process that began in 2009, intended to curb, then eliminate massive plastic bag use. The city had already ruled that shops should charge for plastic bags, and the newspaper Clarín cited the retailers' association ASU on 2 January as observing that this had duly reduced demand by "70 per cent." Yet EFE cited the city's chief environmental officer Eduardo Macchiavelli as saying in an interview that the city still typically consumed 500 million bags a year, which could "circle the world seven times." Shops failing to comply with the new norm would be fined 100,000 pesos (almost 6,000 euros), and the city was helping people by gifting reusable cloth bags around the capital during January, the website Infobae reported. In spite of advance warning of the ban, on 2 January many shoppers reportedly had to buy bags as they arrived at supermarkets without them. At stores like Carrefour and Walmart, large, reusable bags were sold for 15 pesos (around 0.9 euros), while Día supermarkets were selling plastic bags for 1.5 pesos, as a product. This was strictly legal, a spokeswoman told Clarín, as the bags sold were thicker than the single-use bags the city had banned, and reusable.

lunes, 2 de enero de 2017

Puerto Rico, Colombia enforce plastic restrictions

Puerto Rico banned the distribution of disposable plastic bags in practically all shops as of 30 December 2016, while Colombia also began enforcing restrictions on bag use it had announced earlier, as the countries moved to curb the pollution caused by its massive, wasteful consumption. In Puerto Rico, the Law to Promote Reusable Bags and Regulate the Use of Plastic Bags would give shops six months to properly adapt and use up their bag stocks, and there were no restrictions on shoppers using bags they had at home, EFE reported. In this period shops would be notified but not fined, for failing to comply. EFE cited the country's trash collection agency ADS as estimating that Puerto Rico had imported 1,700 million plastic bags between 2012 and 2015. Colombia also began enforcing on 30 December its decree on restricting the general distribution of bags, which included a ban on the thinnest bags. This would affect thin bags measuring less than 30 by 30 cm, El Espectador reported.

sábado, 26 de noviembre de 2016

Cuba's Fidel Castro dies

Cuba's veteran revolutionary leader and former communist president, Fidel Castro Ruz, died in Havana late on 25 November, at the age of 90. His brother, President Raúl Castro, informed Cubans of the death speaking on state television, and the State Council declared nine days of mourning until 4 December, when Castro's remains would be buried in Santiago de Cuba. Cuba's socialist allies were among the first world leaders to praise one of the 20th century's iconic political figures, much like his former companion-in-arms Ernesto Che Guevara. Hundreds of Cuban exiles in Miami however, came onto the streets to celebrate the end of a man whose revolution forced many to leave their homes and flee, when possible, to the United States. President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said Castro was heading for "immortality," and inevitably reminded Venezuelans of their own late leader, Hugo Chávez, for the "deep friendship" they had forged and for leading "two revolutions harassed by the empire," meaning the United States. Bolivia's Evo Morales told the Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur that the best homage was to keep the "unity between peoples" and "never forget" Castro's "anti-imperialist struggle." Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto called Castro a "friend of Mexico" and "promoter" of bilateral ties based on "respect and solidarity." As a young man, Castro took refuge in Mexico before returning to take power in 1959, and the two countries maintained good working ties whenever Peña Nieto's centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party governed Mexico. Profiles and obituaries of Castro appeared early in several news outlets on 26 November, including Spain's national broadcaster RTVE, Britain's The Guardian and Le Figaro.

martes, 8 de noviembre de 2016

Guatemalan officials note rise in homicides in October, slight overall decline in 2016

Guatemalan state coroners observed an increase in nationwide criminal killings in October 2016 compared to September, though all killings this year appeared to be slightly fewer than in 2015 and previous years. The coroner's office INACIF counted 424 "deaths through violence" in October, up from 367 in September, and a total of 3,913 homicides from 1 January to 31 October, the paper Prensa Libre reported on 8 November, citing an Inacif spokesman. Roberto Garza cited the next two months with most killings this year to be August with 417, and February with 358. He said 44 of all those murdered this year had been "dismembered in and around the capital," Ciudad Guatemala. Inacif's figures showed an apparent decline in killings this year, as the office counted 4,041 violent deaths between 1 January and 31 October 2015, with January 2015 cited as the most violent month, with 426 killings. Guatemala City has been on the list of the world's most murderous cities in 2015 and 2014, and lies in one of the world's most violent regions not at war. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were to officially launch on 10 November a joint batallion to combat gang crime in the "northern triangle" of Central America, Honduras's El Heraldo reported on 8 November. The force would consist of agents from the three countries acting in their own territories, but in coordination and with shared information, El Salvador's Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez told media in San Salvador on 7 November.

domingo, 9 de octubre de 2016

El Salvador sees "near record" murder figures for 2016

Authorities in El Salvador counted 4,242 criminal deaths in the country from 1 January to 27 September, which they estimate could, with more than 5,000 estimated homicides this year, make 2016 one of the most violent of recent years. The website Elsalvador.com wrote on 6 October that while the government's "extraordinary" measures to curb gang activity had reduced killings somewhat since April 2016, at the going rate of "more than 300 a month," 2016 would likely become the second most violent year since 2004, after 2015. The country suffered 6,656 murders in 2015, while previous years with the most registered homicides were, according to coroners' figures cited in Elsalvador.com, 2009 with 4,382, 2011 with 4,371 and 2010 with 3,987. The years 2012 and 2013 had much lower homicide figures due to an ostensible ceasefire between the Mara gangs, but the website observed that their figures excluded all missing people who  may have been killed by the gangs. The website cited figures as showing more than 830 people as going missing in the first seven months of 2016.

viernes, 7 de octubre de 2016

Colombian president given Nobel peace prize

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 7 October, in spite of losing a national referendum on 2 October over his peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The prize, as a Nobel committee spokesman told Santos by phone, was for his "resolute efforts to bring the civil war in Colombia to a peaceful end," while a grateful Santos admitted to him the country was earlier "on the verge" of doing so. He later said in public that he "humbly" accepted the prize "in the name of all Colombians" and especially of "millions of victims" who had suffered through 50 years of civil conflict in Colombia. In the referendum his government had called to obtain public backing for the peace deal, over 60 per cent of eligible voters abstained and 50.2 per cent of those who did participate, voted against it. Media and observers analysed extensively why the public seemed dissatisfied, and reasons given included a vigorous No campaign led by the former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and insufficient consultations with political parties and civil associations. According to the broadcaster Caracol, Santos and the FARC would discuss "adjustments and specifications" to the deal in response to the No victory. Yet Mr Uribe congratulated Santos on his prize, and wrote on Twitter that he hoped this would prompt him to change any agreement "harmful to peace" in Colombia. Bogotá's former leftist mayor Gustavo Petro also congratulated Santos, pointing out on Twitter that he was, after the novelist Gabriel García Márquez, the second Colombian to become a Nobel laureate.

jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

Pope denounces "sin" of worldwide pollution

Not for the first time since ascending the papal throne, Pope Francis denounced on 1 September the destruction of the natural world, calling it a sin against God and urging believers to reconsider their lives and "repent," for contributing to this destruction. He made his call in a message issued for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, presented at the Vatican by two cardinals. In it he stated people had "no right" to exploit the world with "selfishness and irresponsibility" and urged individuals to recognize their personal, daily contributions to climate change, Notimex agency reported. This, he stated, "is the first step on the path to conversion" or change. He urged Catholics to follow a tradition of collective, public repentance in the Church, peer into their consciences and repent for taking part, through the modern lifestyle, in "a system that has imposed the logic of profitting at all costs, regardless of social exclusion or the destruction of nature." The pontiff was to celebrate evening prayers for the occasion that day, to be held in Saint Peter's Square, La Nación reported.

Brazil sacks its president in parliamentary "coup"

Brazil's Senate voted on 31 August to dismiss the socialist President Dilma Rousseff, months after she was deprived of her powers while being investigated for suspected abuses of power. She has insisted throughout that she has done nothing wrong and the process against her was a political "coup" by conservative opponents. Sixty one senators voted to dismiss her against 20 voting in her favour; 54 votes sufficed for her removal, Argentina's Télam agency reported. She had been accused of "illegally using money from state banks" to finance public spending, according to the Reuters news agency. Rousseff was elected on 24 October 2014. Reuters observed in a report on 1 September that the impeachment process was not unrelated to a massive embezzlement scandal at the state oil firm Petrobras involving, apparently, quite a few senior officials and politicians from various parties, though not Rousseff. As its scope and ramifications became public through 2014, the scandal effectively provoked a showdown between conservatives and Mrs Rousseff's Workers Party, while millions of outraged Brazilians began protesting against the Workers Party. Immediately after her destitution, the acting president and former vice-president Michel Temer, was sworn in as President until 2018. Reuters separately reported on the diplomatic rift the vote was causing with Latin American leftist governments, which were perceiving the move as part of a wider effort to oust them all. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador recalled their ambassadors for consultations, though Brazil's Foreign Minister José Serra defended the vote's legality and questioned the democratic credentials of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro for chiding Brazil's institutions. Maduro described the vote on Twitter as a coup by a "group of oligarchs."

miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2016

Police arrest "hundreds" of gang members around El Salvador

Police in El Salvador arrested at least 80 suspected members of the country's Mara 13 or MS-13 gang sought for crimes including murder, criminal conspiracy and especially extortion, in raids carried out in several eastern districts on 30-31 August. In one operation in the department of La Unión, police held 52 presumed MS-13 members, 24 of whom were apparently already in jail, El Mundo reported on 31 August. Pursuing criminal activities especially extortion, from prison is common in Central America. Further operations in the localities of Yayantique and Conchagua, also in La Unión, led to the arrests of 29 suspected members of a related gang dubbed Coronados Locos Salvatruchos, sought for their roles in six murders and other planned or attempted killings, the daily reported. In a separate incident, police shot dead four suspected gangsters in Jucuarán after reportedly, they opened fire on police investigating their presence in the area, elsalvador.com reported on 30 August. The state prosecution service (Fiscalía) reported on its Twitter account on 31 August that raids carried out in eastern parts of the country had netted 314 members of the Mara 18, the country's other big gang network. This appeared to be the Shark Operation the prosecution service cited on its account, carried out by "land and sea" in the department of Usulután.

Colombia lost over two million hectares of forests since 1960s

Millions of hectares of woodlands equivalent to the size of a province, were destroyed in Colombia between 1967 and 2012 thanks to farming, war, mining and a range of criminal activities. The Agustín Codazzi Geographical Institute (IGAC) and IDEAM, two public research bodies, found in the recently published Suelos y tierras de Colombia, a paper on the state of the Colombia's natural landscapes, that the country lost just over 2.4 million hectares (24,000 square kilometres) of forest cover in that period, about equivalent to the size of the central department of Cundinamarca that includes Bogotá, El Espectador reported on 30 August. The bodies found that in 1967 the country had 68, 223,717 hectares of forests - or 60 per cent of its entire area - and this dropped to 65,767,667 hectares in 2012, or 58 per cent of the country's surface. About 60 million hectares consisted of primary or secondary forests and the rest, woodlands interspersed with farmed land. The worst damage was done from the 1960s to the 1980s, the IGAC found. Caracol radio cited its head, Juan Antonio Nieto Escalante, as urging more efforts to protect the forest now, as the country's civil war winds down.

Salta in Argentina to ban plastic bags

The district of Salta in northern Argentina is phasing out the sale and use of plastic bags by the end of 2016 to curb pollution, the regional daily El Tribuno reported on 30 August. The daily stated that single-bag use had already fallen by 70 per cent since early 2016, when the municipality began discouraging their use in coordination with supermarkets. Their sale or distribution will be forbidden from 30 December, it stated, while shops and supermarkets were to starting selling and promoting the use of cloth or reusable bags from 1 September. Plastic, which takes hundreds of years or longer to disappear, has become one of the world's main pollutants, in spite of its utility.

lunes, 29 de agosto de 2016

Fighting with FARC formally "at an end" in Colombia

A bilateral and definitive ceasefire between the Colombian government and the FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, began at midnight on 28-29 August, marking the beginning of the end of some 50 years of civil war pursuant to a recent peace agreement reached between both sides. The FARC's supreme leader, Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko, ordered his troops to stop fighting speaking from a hotel in Havana on 28 August. President Juan Manuel Santos also expressed his delight, writing on Twitter that a "new history begins for Colombia on 29 August. We silenced the guns. The war with the FARC is over." A verification committee was now to check and ensure the ceasefire was being respected nationwide by both sides, Radio Santa Fe reported on 29 August. The state and the FARC were expected to sign a peace treaty between 20 and 26 September, Agence France-Presse cited the Interior Minister Juan Carlos Villegas as saying on 26 August. Colombia's smaller guerrilla force, the National Liberation Army (ELN) was separately "worried" by this peace and "differs" with the FARC over the contents of its accord, according to the newspaper El Espectador. Its commander, Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, reportedly sent the FARC chief a two-page letter praising the FARC's move to become a peaceful political entity but also stating his concern that the government would now turn its forces on the ELN, which have fewer troops than the FARC. Rodríguez, aka Gabino, stated he did not discern any intention on the government's part to make peace with the ELN. Five suspected ELN fighters were separately arrested in the district of Bagre in Antioquia, Colprensa and dailies reported on 28 August. They were associated with acts of extorsion used to finance the guerrillas.

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2016

Colombia and communist rebels announce "final" deal to end 50 years of fighting

Colombian media and the public hailed the announcement on 24 August that the government and envoys of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had ended their talks in Havana and agreed on an accord to end some 50 years of civil war in Colombia. Negotiators announced on 24 August that an agreement had been reached on six principal points after almost four years of talks, namely: on a comprehensive rural development policy, the peacetime political role of the FARC, the mechanics of ending fighting, curbing illegal drug production, compensation for victims and verification of peace and its approval with a referendum, Bogotá's Radio Santa Fe reported. Peace between the two sides was to be signed formally in early September, while President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón cited 2 October as the date of a national vote allowing Colombians to approve or reject it, Spain's RTVE reported. Colombians, he stated, would have the "last word" on the agreement. He thanked the countries that had accompanied the talks - Norway, Venezuela, Chile and the host Cuba - and the European Union for its support. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro congratulated Colombians and reiterated his country's "full support for building peace." The head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, also congratulated both sides for the "historic step." In Bogotá, people, from local residents to students and politicians, began celebrating the imminent accord late on 23 August. People gathered swiftly in the "hippies park" in the middle-class district of Chapinero, soon after networking websites reported the conclusion of talks that evening, El Espectador reported.

sábado, 13 de agosto de 2016

Uruguay to clamp down on free plastic bags

The government of Uruguay presented a bill to parliament in July to restrict the use of plastic bags and fight the massive land and sea pollution these cause. Bags are an oil-derived product that decompose over hundreds of years or longer, though beforehand they break into pieces or specks that are swallowed by wildlife, especially fish, when they do not choke animals in bigger pieces. Uruguayans reportedly use 345 plastic bags each a year, or a total of more than 1.17 billion bags a year nationwide, the daily El Observador cited a plastics industry representative at the Senate Environment Committee as saying. The government bill seeks to ban shops from handing out free bags from 2017, while restrictions and conditions would be imposed on bag imports, the daily reported on 29 July. Shops would also have to inform customers on the "responsible" use of bags and offer reusable bags for sale. The Finance Ministry was to regulate the pricing, mechanics and implementation of the law once approved, Spain's EFE agency reported on 28 July.

Venezuelan opponent to stay in jail, observers deplore ruling

The Caracas Appeals Court confirmed a 14-year jail sentence given to the conservative politician and government opponent Leopoldo López, held in 2014 during street protests and sentenced in September 2015 on charges of inciting violence. Opponents perceived the confirmation as politicized and duly reflecting the judiciary's loyalty to the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro. López´s defence attorney wrote on Twitter that the appeals process could technically continue in two more court rooms, the Sala Penal and the Sala Constitucional, dependencies of the Supreme Court, though Spain's El País cited him as considering legal recourses as "exhausted" now. He stated that the latest court hearing, which began on 23 July, had been lengthy and "filled with irregularities" but at least allowed his team to "show the absolute nullity of the trial that unjustly condemned... López to 14 years... It is proven now that López's discourse is in no way violent and while combative, absolutely close to the constitution," the Caracas daily El Universal reported. López ally and former legislator María Corina Machado called the confirmation "monstrous,"  while the head of the Organization of Amerian States (OAS), Luis Almagro, described it as unjust and a "lost opportunity for reconciliation." The prisoner's wife, Lilian Tintori, insisted on Twitter that 2016 was the "year of change" in Venezuela. The opposition is pushing through a national vote to end President Maduro's mandate and hold general elections as soon as possible. The OAS urged Venezuela's government not to hamper or delay the referendum process, to which it stated it intended to send observers.

domingo, 26 de junio de 2016

FARC, Colombia sign ceasefire deal hailed as step to final peace

Negotiators of the Colombian government and the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed an agreement on 23 June on a bilateral ceasefire and the FARC's programmed disarmament, in a deal hailed worldwide as a crucial step toward a definitive end to decades of civil war. The draft agreement was signed in Havana, where the two sides have been negotiating over peace since 2012, by President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and the FARC's supreme leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (aka Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko), as hundreds watched on a giant screen put up in central Bogotá, Agence France-Presse reported. It cited President Santos as suggesting that a final treaty could be signed by 20 July, after which the sides would begin implementing the deal. Its provisions included concentrating some 7,000 FARC guerrillas in 20-23 sub-districts for disarmament and demobilization, but also a commitment on the state's part to clamp down on criminal gangs the FARC insist are revived versions of right-wing paramilitary groups. Their targets are usually left-wing activists and politicians and human rights or environmental activists - and might plausibly include members of the FARC once they return to civilian life. Former president and current Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who has opposed the peace talks, observed that the government was effectively allowing the "drug cartel" FARC to avoid punishment for its crimes and even turning them into semi-official (paraestatal) crime-fighters or vigilantes. Colombians were hoping the deal would bring peace and security, and boost the economy as promised, after more than 50 years of fighting that has fuelled land-grabbing, violence, gang crime and impunity, though many were for now cautious over its immediate benefits, Spain's El Mundo observed on 23 June.

sábado, 7 de mayo de 2016

New York shops to charge for plastic bags

New York joined the ranks of 150 U.S. cities by approving on 5 May an initiative against shops handing out free plastic bags, in a bid reduce massive plastic pollution on land and sea, the Associated Press reported. The city council voted in a resolution asking most shops to charge at least five cents per bag - and they can keep the money - to curb demand. Local authorities were cited as putting the number of plastic bags thrown out annually at 10 billion, or 19,000 a minute, though the report did not immediately specify if that was in New York or nationwide. The law is to enter into force on 1 October once promulgated by the mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mr de Blasio has reportedly pledged to eliminate the city's trash by 2030.

jueves, 14 de abril de 2016

Colombians being urged to cut back on plastic bags

Colombian authorities were reported on 12 April as considering moves to discourage, though apparently not eliminate, the use of free plastic bags at stores and supermarkets. Plastic bags are one of a range of synthetic items piling up on land and sea and harming nature and animals by various means. The government was to ban smaller plastic bags that are easily ripped from 29 April, and define the quality and strength of the plastic bags shops should provide their customers. The new norms and a publicity campaign launched that day were intended to reduce the 288 bags every Colombian is thought to use annually, or more than 21,000 in a lifetime of 73 years, El Tiempo reported. The country's population was just over 50 million in 2015. Colombia's Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo López said the norms would first apply to bigger stores, which should provide unspecified bagging alternatives. "It is not about eliminating use of bags, but making rational use of" them, he said. The move seemed timid compared to those of other countries that have banned bags, but was still reported on some websites to have caused cabinet divisions. Vallejo indicated on 12 April at the launch of the Reembólsale al planeta campaign ("Rebag the world"), that Colombia would not presently emulate moves seen in some European countries to charge for plastic bags.