SANTIAGO, Chile – Chile’s Superintendency of Sanitary Services has ordered two of the country’s main water suppliers – Santiago-based Aguas Andinas and Valparaíso-based Esval – to take steps to prevent water shortages after four million people were left without water on Jan. 22 and from Feb. 9-11. (Gustavo Ortiz for Infosurhoy.com)
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Congress approves 2010 budget: Mexico's 2010 national budget bill was passed by Congress with backing from the country's three main political forces. Legislators from the PAN, PRI and PRD parties approved the bill by 437 votes to 25 and cleared spending plans for US$244 billion, slightly more than the 2009 budget. To account for the Mexican economy shrinking by seven percent in 2009, the government intends to finance spending with recently announced increases to value added tax (IVA) and income tax (ISR).
[Jornada, El Universal]
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – U.S. and Guatemala collaborate in fight against drugs: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) donated US$6.75 million to Guatemala to be used for combating drug trafficking and organized crime. The funds were included in a cooperation agreement between both countries signed by Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom and U.S. Ambassador Stephen McFarland. The deal is part of the Mérida Initiative, a multilateral plan for fighting against drug trafficking in the region, which has been approved by the United States Congress.
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Progress toward FTA with China: After five previous rounds of talks, China and Costa Rica have entered the sixth and final stage of negotiations to conclude the details of their bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA). So far, the trade representatives from both countries have agreed to terms for 6,600 goods. Approximately 200 Chinese and 24 Costa Rican products remain to be decided upon. Costa Rica has pressed for the free trade of coffee, sugar, beef, pork and chicken, while China has focused on industrially manufactured exports, such as wheels for vehicles and other metal goods.
[Nación, América Economía]
MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Taiwan makes donation to Nicaraguan children: The Taiwanese government has donated US$850,000 to the Nicaragua-based Amor ("Love") project aimed at improving conditions in canteens for the poor at Childhood Development Centers in Nicaragua. "This donation will enable 70 children's centers to be refitted," announced the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute. The purpose of the bi-national program is the social reinsertion of hundreds of children living on the streets of Managua.
[El Nuevo Diario, EFE]