Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Colombia Sets Up Ambitious Plan For Reparations to Victims and Displaced

One of the most under-reported effects of Colombia's violence is the millions of internal refugees. Many of the displaced fled due to violence or for opposing one of the armed parties. Many are small landowners or tenant farmers forced off their land by paramilitary "scorched earth" policies - often in complicity with the military. In addition, vast tracts of land have been bought with drug money, and nouveau landowners have done a reverse "agrarian reform" ejecting tenants forcibly. Guerilla policies of drafting young teens and taxing rural residents has also forced people out.

The government of Colombia recently passed a decree of reparations which will indemnify 200,000 victims of violence and 2.2 million displaced people. It is estimated the program will cost around 4 billion dollars, take about 10 years to implement, and will begin later on this year.

The decree covers all victims of illegal "armed groups" irrespective of ideology.
While it looks like the government expects part of the funding to come from armed parties themselves, it is providing the direct funding to get it up and running.

The actual program was designed with assistance from the government of Spain, the Interamerican Human Rights offices, and other organizations. Besides material reparations, the measure also looks to provide rehabilitation and psychological assistance for the victims to assist their reintegration into society.

This looks like quite an undertaking for the Colombian government, involving an ambitious plan involving a huge number of people. Regardless of what you think, it seems to be a step in the right direction.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Caterpillar: How Trade Helps Some US Manufacturers

While US presidential candidates and Unions continue to beat up on free trade deals as job destroyers, one major US manufacturer in the heart of the rustbelt is boosting its profits by sales overseas:
Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday as strong international sales more than offset what the company characterized as a "recessionary storm in the United States."

The news sent shares of Caterpillar -- the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) and a U.S. business bellwether -- up as much as 4.7 percent in premarket trade.

Construction booms outside North America, particularly in Russia, Africa and energy-producing regions like the Middle East, boosted results, and the weak U.S. dollar aided the company's competitiveness overseas.

First-quarter profit rose 13 percent to $922 million, or $1.45 a share, from $816 million, or $1.23 a share, a year earlier.

Sales increased 18 percent to $11.8 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected the Peoria, Illinois-based company earn $1.33 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

"We continue to see robust demand for products used in the global mining and energy industries and for machines used by our customers to build infrastructure, particularly in emerging markets," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Owens said in a statement.