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Uruguay gets closer to lifting ban on Abortion

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 27, 2012

Women stood naked with their bodies painted to reflect their support for what they called their right to choose.

Uruguay is now on the verge of decriminalizing abortion after its House of Representatives approved a motion to do just that with a minimum majority of 50 to 49. Although the bill still needs to be ratified in the Senate, it is expected to pass, because it seems to have enough support there too.

The motion to decriminalize abortion was approved after a lengthy discussion of nearly fourteen hours which had moments filled with emotion from those pro lifting the ban and others who sought keep abortion illegal.  The feelings of concern and excitement among representatives was evident as arguments marked clear lines of separation within all Uruguayan political parties.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will voted on in December to become law. After that, President José Mujica will have to sign it in order to ratify the law and make it official.

According to the text adopted, the motion decriminalizes abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, with no limit in case of danger to the health of the mother, and provided that the procedure is carried out in health centers under the supervision of the authorities. Any Uruguayan woman who wants an abortion under this law only has to go to a doctor and express her desire to do so.

The physician will then send the woman to a committee of gynecologists, psychologists and social workers to inform the woman about all the possibilities she has available. If the woman still manifests her intention to have the abortion, the procedure will take place immediately without further proceedings.

This project is a substantial modification of the bill voted on by the Senate because the ruling Frente Amplio (FA), which promised to pass the motion, did not have the votes previous to the debate. The party was forced to agree on a new project with Independent Party lawmaker Ivan Posada, whose vote was crucial for approval.

In the end, the final tally of 49 votes from the Frente Amplio plus one from Posada helped approve the motion, even though representative  Andrés Lima voted against on grounds of conscience. Two other representatives argued against the project, but left the room and their seats to their alternates so the project could be approved.

Among them was Dario Perez, who tearfully told colleagues he could not accompany the vote because he still remembered the pain that resulted in the loss of a child when his wife spontaneously aborted while during her fourth month of pregnancy. On the opposing side, the Colorado Party deputy Fernando Amado, a supporter of the decriminalization of abortion, argued in favor of the measure and left the room to not vote against it as a mandate required him to do due to a mandate from his party.

Anibal Gloodtdofsky, also was in favor of decriminalization but said he would vote against to respect party lines. In his speech to the House, Rep. Posada defended the project saying it was “appropriate to reduce the number of abortions performed in the country. This project chooses the middle path, the path of lesser evil,” he said to the other members.

By contrast, Rep. Fitzgerald argued against by saying that “with this project the mother can do what she wants with the pregnancy.” Despite being punishable by law in Uruguay, records show that at least 30,000 abortions are performed each year, although the reality could double that number, say NGOs. In 2008, a similar bill was approved, but it did not become law due to the veto imposed by the previous administration.

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Mercosur Opens the Doors to Socialism

The MERCOSUR alliance officially welcomed Venezuela as a permanent member.

By ALONSO SOTO | REUTERS | AUGUST 1, 2012

On his first foreign trip since undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba earlier this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed his country’s welcome by fellow South American leaders into a troubled regional trade bloc on Tuesday.

Ignoring criticism that Venezuela’s entry could eventually cause greater dysfunction among the Mercosur trade bloc’s members, Chavez cast the event as a continuation of his self-styled revolution and a sign of greater ascendance for South America as a whole.

“Our north is the south,” the Venezuelan president said, evoking Simon Bolivar and other revolutionaries who wrested the continent from colonial rule. “Mercosur is, without a doubt, the most powerful engine that exists to preserve our independence.”

Chavez, who recently declared himself cancer-free, stood at a podium throughout his 20-minute speech in Brazil’s capital and spoke in a clear, strong voice. Later, after a meeting at Brazil’s foreign ministry, he jigged and declared that his health “is very good, as you can see.”

The meeting was overshadowed by controversial events that enabled Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur, which also includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The grouping now accounts for about $3.3 trillion in combined gross domestic product, and the leaders said it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy if it were a single nation.

The expansion of Mercosur was criticized by many who see a paradox in the protectionist policies and leftist slant that increasingly have come to dominate a bloc originally created to liberalize trade.

After years of stalled negotiations with Caracas, the group hastily accepted Venezuela despite the objections of Paraguay, a marked absence at Tuesday’s meeting. The other three countries made their invitation to Chavez after suspending Paraguay in June because of the controversial impeachment there by conservative legislators of leftist president Fernando Lugo.

That move troubled critics, who said it was emblematic of the decline of a bloc that was founded in 1995, at a time when a group of free-market reformers was dominant in the region.

“What was once an economic bloc has now been reduced to a political sideshow,” said Mario Marconini, a former Brazilian trade secretary who is now a business consultant in Sao Paulo. The inclusion of Venezuela despite the veto of a full-fledged member, “is a fatal blow to its economic credibility.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Tuesday that Paraguay’s suspension is justified until the country “normalizes” its internal politics. Brazil and other neighboring countries have argued that Paraguay must proceed with its regularly scheduled presidential elections next year before they consider its government to be stable.

FOCUS ON CHAVEZ

Most of the other leaders present glazed over the Paraguay controversy, and focused instead on criticizing the orthodox economic policies of the developed world. They cited Mercosur as a vehicle that could further regional goals of fair trade, equitable growth and social inclusion.

Chavez said construction companies from Mercosur countries should take part in ongoing projects to build millions of subsidized homes in Venezuela. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said the region would continue to produce all-important raw materials for the global economy, but demanded “financial stability” in return from richer countries.

Mercosur, she said, could “make this new pole of power indivisible, indestructible.”

Chavez, who has spent more than 13 years in office, has pursued a personality driven government that has scared away foreign investors and crippled productivity. His acceptance by Mercosur, opponents say, will give him one more thing to boast about as he campaigns for another six-year term ahead of Venezuela’s presidential election in October.

Officially, the leaders hailed Venezuela’s strengths as a major oil producer and an important market for everything from Brazilian machinery to Argentine wheat. In practice, though, Venezuela can’t fully participate in the bloc until it agrees to accept a common tariff adopted by Mercosur, common agreements with third-party countries and other prerequisites that Chavez has failed to embrace since talks for inclusion began in 2006.

In a statement Tuesday, Brazil’s National Industry Confederation, a powerful business group, reminded Venezuela that “the new member has obligations to fulfill.” Citing the common tariff and other existing bloc conventions, the group urged Mercosur to establish a timeline by which Venezuela must comply.

Mercosur, the group added, “should focus on reinforcing the stability and predictability of the economic bloc.”

BLOC IS ALREADY TROUBLED

Many fear Venezuela will only complicate relations in an already dysfunctional grouping. “The bloc is a mess,” said Rubens Barbosa, a former Brazilian representative to Mercosur who is now a consultant.

“Just imagine if you start adding Venezuela and others,” he said, noting recent discussions to include Bolivia and Ecuador, two countries with close ties to Chavez.

Tuesday’s ceremony was accompanied by a trickle of business as Chavez and Rousseff formalized a previously disclosed plan by Conviasa, the Venezuelan airline, to purchase 100-seat jets made by Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer. Under the terms

of the agreement, Conviasa will pay about $270 million for six Embraer 190 jets, with an option for 14 more.

Meanwhile, Venezuela and Argentina signed an agreement for greater investment in each other’s oil sector. PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil producer, will invest in Argentine petrochemicals, and YPF, its Argentine counterpart, will invest in Venezuelan oil fields, according to the agreement.