Mexico: Truth, Knowledge And The History Of This Great Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mexico

Introduction The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 through Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. The elections held in 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that an opposition candidate – Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) – defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He was succeeded in 2006 by another PAN candidate Felipe CALDERON.
History Pre-Columbian civilizations

Human presence in Mesoamerica has been shown to date back 40,000 years based upon ancient human footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico (previous evidence substantiated indigenous inhabitants at 12,500 years ago). For thousands of years, Mesoamerica was a land of hunter-gatherers. Around 9,000 years ago, ancient indigenous people’s domesticated corn and initiated an agricultural revolution, leading to the formation of many complex civilizations.

These civilizations revolved around cities with writing, monumental architecture, astronomical studies, mathematics, and militaries. For almost three thousand years, Aridoamerica and Mesoamerica were the site of several advanced Amerindian civilizations.

In 1519, the native civilizations of Mesoamerica were invaded by Spain; among them the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, etc. This was one of the most important conquest campaigns in America. Two years later, in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was conquered by the Spaniards along with the Tlaxcaltecs, the main enemies of the Aztecs, marking end to the Aztec Empire and giving rise to the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535, it became the first and largest provider of resources for the Spanish Empire, and the most populated of all Spanish colonies.

Colonial era and independence

Almost 300 years after the New Spain was created, on September 16, 1810, independence from Spain was declared by Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato.[18] This was the catalyst for a long war that ended in 1821 which eventually led to the independence and creation of the ephemeral First Mexican Empire. Agustín de Iturbide was the first and only emperor. Two years later, he was deposed by the republican forces. In 1824, a republican constitution was drafted creating the United Mexican States with Guadalupe Victoria as its first President.

The first four decades after the creation of the country were marked by a constant strife between liberales (those who supported the federal form of government stipulated in the 1824 constitution) and conservadores (who proposed a hierarchical form of government in which all local authorities were appointed and subject to a central authority).[19] General Antonio López de Santa Anna was a strong influence in Mexican politics, a centralist and a two-time dictator. In 1836, he approved the Siete Leyes, a radical amendment to the constitution that institutionalized the centralized form of government. Having suspended the Constitution of 1824, civil war spread across the country, and three new governments declared independence; the Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande (recognized by the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Yucatán. Only Texas was able to defeat Santa Anna, and later the annexation of Texas by the United States created a border dispute that would cause the Mexican-American War. Santa Anna played a big role in trying to muster Mexican forces but this war resulted in the resolute defeat of Mexico and as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), Mexico lost one-third of its surface area due to civil war with Texas, and later war with the United States.

Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna’s return to power, and his unconstitutional rule, led to the liberal Revolution of Ayutla, which initiated an era of liberal reforms, known as La Reforma, after which a new constitution was drafted that reestablished federalism as the form of government and first introduced freedom of religion. In the 1860’s the country again underwent a military occupation, this time by France, which established the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria on the Mexican throne as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico with support from the Catholic clergy and the conservative Mexicans. This Second Mexican Empire was victorious for only a few years, when the previous president of the Republic, the Zapotec Indian Benito Juárez, managed to restore the republic in 1867.

20th and 21st centuries

Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention, ruled Mexico from 1876–1880 and then from 1880–1911 in five consecutive reelections. The period of his rule is known as the Porfiriato, which was characterized by remarkable economic achievements, investments in art and sciences, but also of huge economic inequality and political repression.[20] An obvious and preposterous electoral fraud that led to his fifth reelection sparked the Mexican Revolution of 1910, initially led by Francisco I. Madero. Díaz resigned in 1911 and Madero was elected president but overthrown and murdered in a coup d’état in 1913 led by a conservative general named Victoriano Huerta after a secret council held with the U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. This re-ignited the civil war, with participants such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata who formed their own forces. A third force, the constitutional army led by Venustiano Carranza, managed to bring an end to the war, and radically amended the 1857 Constitution to include many of the social premises and demands of the revolutionaries into what was eventually called the 1917 Constitution. Carranza was killed in 1920 and succeeded by another revolutionary hero, Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. Obregón was reelected in 1928 but assassinated before he could assume power. In 1929, Calles founded the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which became the most influential party during the next 70 years.

Between 1940 and 1980, Mexico experienced substantial economic growth that some historians call “El Milagro Mexicano”, the Mexican Miracle.[21] The assumption of mineral rights by the government, and the subsequent nationalization of the oil industry into PEMEX during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río (1938) was a popular move, but sparked a diplomatic crisis with those countries whose citizens had lost businesses expropriated by the Cárdenas government.

Although the economy continued to flourish, social inequality remained a factor of discontent. Moreover, the PRI rule became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive.[22] An example of this is the Tlatelolco Massacre [23] of 1968, which according to government officials claimed the life of around 30 protesters, while according to many reputable international accounts around 250 protesters were killed.

In the 1970s there was extreme dissatisfaction with the administration of Luis Echeverría which took missteps in both the national and international arenas. Nonetheless, it was in this decade that the first substantial changes to electoral law were made, which initiated a movement of democratization of a system that had become electorally authoritarian.[24][25] While the prices of oil were at historically high records and interest rates were low, Mexico made impressive investments in the state-owned oil company, with the intention of revitalizing the economy, but overborrowing and mismanagement of oil revenues led to inflation and exacerbated the crisis of 1982. That year, oil prices plunged, interest rates soared, and the government defaulted on its debt. In an attempt to stabilize the current account balance, and given the reluctance of international lenders to return to Mexico given the previous default, President de la Madrid resorted to currency devaluations which in turn sparked inflation.

Former President Vicente Fox and U.S. President George Bush at the signature of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

The first small cracks in the political monopolistic position of PRI were seen in the late 1970s with the creation of 100 deputy seats in the Chamber of Deputies assigned through proportional representation with closed party-lists. Even though at the municipal level the first non-PRI mayor was elected in 1947,[26] it was not until 1989 that the first non-PRI governor of a state was elected. However, many sources claimed that in 1988 the party resorted to electoral fraud in order to prevent leftist opposition candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas from winning the national presidential elections who lost to Carlos Salinas, which led to massive protests in the capital.[27] Salinas embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms which fixed the exchange rate, controlled inflation and culminated with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect in 1994. However, that very same day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) started a two-week-lived armed rebellion against the federal government, and has continued as a non-violent opposition movement against neoliberalism and globalization. Being an election year, in a process that was then called the most transparent in Mexican history, authorities were reluctant to devalue the peso, a move which caused a rapid depletion of the National Reserves. In December 1994, a month after Salinas was succeeded by Ernesto Zedillo, the Mexican economy collapsed.

With a rapid rescue packaged authorized by United States President Bill Clinton and major macroeconomic reforms started by president Zedillo, the economy rapidly recovered and growth peaked at almost 7% by the end of 1999.[28] After a comprehensive electoral reform to increase party representation during Zedillo’s administration, as well as discontent with PRI after the economic crisis, led the PRI to lose its absolute majority in the Congress in 1997. In 2000, after 71 years the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). Neither party had absolute majority in the Congress.

On March 23, 2005, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was signed by Vicente Fox. During the 2006 elections, the position of PRI in the Congress was further weakened and became the third political force in number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies after PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), even though the party still has the plurality of state governorships. In the concurrent presidential elections, Felipe Calderón, from PAN was declared winner, with a razor-thin margin over Andrés Manuel López Obrador PRD. López Obrador, however, contested the election and pledged to create an “alternative government”.

Geography Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the US and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the US
Geographic coordinates: 23 00 N, 102 00 W
Map references: North America
Area: total: 1,972,550 sq km
land: 1,923,040 sq km
water: 49,510 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 4,353 km
border countries: Belize 250 km, Guatemala 962 km, US 3,141 km
Coastline: 9,330 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: varies from tropical to desert
Terrain: high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m
highest point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba 5,700 m
Natural resources: petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, timber
Land use: arable land: 12.66%
permanent crops: 1.28%
other: 86.06% (2005)
Irrigated land: 63,200 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 457.2 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 78.22 cu km/yr (17%/5%/77%)
per capita: 731 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and hurricanes on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts
Environment – current issues: scarcity of hazardous waste disposal facilities; rural to urban migration; natural fresh water resources scarce and polluted in north, inaccessible and poor quality in center and extreme southeast; raw sewage and industrial effluents polluting rivers in urban areas; deforestation; widespread erosion; desertification; deteriorating agricultural lands; serious air and water pollution in the national capital and urban centers along US-Mexico border; land subsidence in Valley of Mexico caused by groundwater depletion
note: the government considers the lack of clean water and deforestation national security issues
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location on southern border of US; corn (maize), one of the world’s major grain crops, is thought to have originated in Mexico
Politics The United Mexican States are a federation whose government is representative, democratic and republican based on a congressional system according to the 1917 Constitution. The constitution establishes three levels of government: the federal Union, the state governments and the municipal governments. All officials at the three levels are elected by voters through first-past-the-post plurality, proportional representation or are appointed by other elected officials.

The federal government is constituted by the Powers of the Union, the three separate branches of government:
Legislative: the bicameral Congress of the Union, composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies, which makes federal law, declares war, imposes taxes, approves the national budget and international treaties, and ratifies diplomatic appointments.[30]
Executive: the President of the United Mexican States, who is the head of state and government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the Mexican military forces. The President also appoints, with Senate approval, the Cabinet and other officers. The President is responsible for executing and enforcing the law, and has the authority of vetoing bills.[31]
Judiciary: The Supreme Court of Justice, comprised by eleven judges appointed by the President with Senate approval, who interpret laws and judge cases of federal competency. Other institutions of the judiciary are the Electoral Tribunal, collegiate, unitary and district tribunals, and the Council of the Federal Judiciary.[32]

All elected executive officials are elected by plurality (first-past-the-post). Seats to the legislature are elected by plurality and proportional representation at the federal and state level.[33] The Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union is conformed by 300 deputies elected by plurality and 200 deputies by proportional representation with closed party lists[34] for which the country is divided into 5 electoral constituencies or circumscriptions.[35] The Senate is conformed by a total of 128 senators: 64 senators, two per state and the Federal District elected by plurality in pairs; 32 senators assigned to the first minority or first-runner up (one per state and the Federal District), and 32 elected by proportional representation with closed party lists for which the country conforms a single electoral constituency.[34]

According to the constitution, all constituent states must have a republican form of government composed of three branches: the executive, represented by a governor and an appointed cabinet, the legislative branch constituted by a unicameral congress and the judiciary, also called a Supreme Court of Justice. They also have their own civil and judicial codes.

In the 2006–2009 Congress of the Union, eight parties are therein represented; five of them, however, have not received neither in this nor in previous congresses more than 4% of the national votes.[36] The other three parties have historically been the dominant parties in Mexican politics:
National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN): a center-right conservative party founded in 1939.
Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI): a center party that ascribes to social democracy, founded in 1929 to unite all the factions of the Mexican Revolution. Prominent right-wing as well as left-wing Mexican politicians have been members of the party.
Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD): a center-left party founded in 1989 by the coalition of socialists and liberal parties, the National Democratic Front which had presented the candidacy of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in the 1988 elections.

The PRI held an almost hegemonic power in Mexican politics since 1929. Since 1977 consecutive electoral reforms allowed opposition parties to win more posts at the local and federal level. This process culminated in the 2000 presidential elections in which Vicente Fox, candidate of the PAN, became the first non-PRI president to be elected in 71 years.

In 2006, Felipe Calderón of the PAN faced Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD in a very close election (0.58% difference), in a system without a second-ballot. On September 6, 2006, Felipe Calderón was declared President-elect by the electoral tribunal. His cabinet was sworn in at midnight on December 1, 2006 and Calderón was handed the presidential band by outgoing Vicente Fox at Los Pinos. He was officially sworn as President on the morning of December 1, 2006 in Congress.

People Population: 109,955,400 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 16,619,995/female 15,936,154)
15-64 years: 64.3% (male 34,179,440/female 36,530,154)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 3,023,185/female 3,666,472) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26 years
male: 24.9 years
female: 27 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.142% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.04 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.78 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 19.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 20.91 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 17.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.84 years
male: 73.05 years
female: 78.78 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.37 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Nicaragua: Truth Knowledge And History Of This Troubled Central American Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Nicaragua

Introduction The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua’s infrastructure and economy – hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 – are slowly being rebuilt.
History Pre-Columbian history

In Pre-Columbian times the Indigenous people, in what is now known as Nicaragua, were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.

Nicaragua was inhabited by Paleo-Indians as far back as 6000 years ago.[2] This is confirmed by the ancient footprints of Acahualinca, along with other archaeological evidence, mainly in the form of ceramics and statues made of volcanic stone like the ones found on the island of Zapatera and petroglyphs found in Ometepe island. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture and language to the Mayans.[3] They were primarily farmers who lived in towns, organized into small kingdoms. Meanwhile, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples, mostly chibcha related groups, that had migrated from what is now Colombia. They lived a less sedentary life based on hunting and gathering.

The people of eastern Nicaragua appear to have traded with and been influenced by the native peoples of the Caribbean, as round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were common in eastern Nicaragua. In the west and highland areas, occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua, a rich ruler who lived in Nicaraocali, now the city of Rivas. The Chorotega lived in the central region of Nicaragua. These two groups had intimate contact with the Spanish conquerors, paving the way for the racial mix of native and European stock now known as mestizos. However, within three decades an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted to a few tens of thousands, as approximately half of the indigenous people in western Nicaragua died from the rapid spread of new diseases brought by the Spaniards, something the indigenous people of the Caribbean coast managed to escape due to the remoteness of the area.

The Spanish conquest

In 1502, Christopher Columbus was the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed south along the Central America isthmus. On his fourth voyage Columbus sailed alongside and explored the Mosquito Coast on the east of Nicaragua.[5] The first attempt to conquer what is now known as Nicaragua was by Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila,[6] whose Central American exploits began with his arrival in Panama in January 1520. González claimed to have converted some 30,000 indigenous peoples and discovered a possible transisthmian water link. After exploring and gathering gold in the fertile western valleys González was attacked by the indigenous people, some of whom were commanded by Nicarao and an estimated 3,000 led by chief Diriangén.[7] González later returned to Panama where governor Pedrarias Dávila attempted to arrest him and confiscate his treasure, some 90,000 pesos of gold. This resulted in González fleeing to Santo Domingo.

It was not until 1524 that the first Spanish permanent settlements were founded.[6] Conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua’s principal towns in 1524: Granada on Lake Nicaragua was the first settlement and León east of Lake Managua came after. Córdoba soon found it necessary to prepare defenses for the cities and go on the offensive against incursions by the other conquistadores. Córdoba was later publicly beheaded following a power struggle with Pedrarias Dávila, his tomb and remains were discovered some 500 years later in the Ruins of León Viejo.[8]

The inevitable clash between the Spanish forces did not impede their devastation of the indigenous population. The Indian civilization was destroyed. The series of battles came to be known as The War of the Captains.[9] By 1529, the conquest of Nicaragua was complete. Several conquistadores came out winners, and some were executed or murdered. Pedrarias Dávila was a winner; although he had lost control of Panama, he had moved to Nicaragua and established his base in León. Through adroit diplomatic machinations, he became the first governor of the colony.[8] The land was parceled out to the conquistadores. The area of most interest was the western portion. Many indigenous people were soon enslaved to develop and maintain “estates” there. Others were put to work in mines in northern Nicaragua, few were killed in warfare, and the great majority were sent as slaves to other New World Spanish colonies, for significant profit to the new landed aristocracy. Many of the indigenous people died as a result of disease and neglect by the Spaniards who controlled everything necessary for their subsistence.[6]

From colony to nation

In 1538, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established. By 1570, the southern part of New Spain was designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The area of Nicaragua was divided into administrative “parties” with León as the capital. In 1610, the Momotombo erupted, destroying the capital. It was rebuilt northwest of what is now known as the Ruins of Old León. Nicaragua became a part of the Mexican Empire and then gained its independence as a part of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821 and as an independent republic in its own right in 1838. The Mosquito Coast based on the Caribbean coast was claimed by the United Kingdom and its predecessors as a protectorate from 1655 to 1850; this was delegated to Honduras in 1859 and transferred to Nicaragua in 1860, though it remained autonomous until 1894. Jose Santos Zelaya, president of Nicaragua from 1893-1909, managed to negotiate for the annexation of this region to the rest of Nicaragua. In his honour the entire region was named Zelaya.

Much of Nicaragua’s politics since independence has been characterized by the rivalry between the liberal elite of León and the conservative elite of Granada. The rivalry often degenerated into civil war, particularly during the 1840s and 1850s. Initially invited by the Liberals in 1855 to join their struggle against the Conservatives, a United States adventurer named William Walker (later executed in Honduras) set himself up as president of Nicaragua, after conducting a farcical election in 1856. Honduras and other Central American countries united to drive him out of Nicaragua in 1857, after which a period of three decades of Conservative rule ensued.[10]

In the 1800s Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium generally moved to Nicaragua to set up businesses with money they brought from Europe. They established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banks.

United States involvement (1909 – 1933)

In 1909, the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property. Zelaya resigned later that year. U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933,[11] except for a nine month period beginning in 1925. From 1910 to 1926, the conservative party ruled Nicaragua. The Chamorro family, which had long dominated the party, effectively controlled the government during that period. In 1914, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, giving the U.S. control over the proposed canal, as well as leases for potential canal defenses.[12] Following the evacuation of U.S. marines, another violent conflict between liberals and conservatives took place in 1926, known as the Constitutionalist War, which resulted in a coalition government and the return of U.S. Marines.[13]

From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government. Sandino was the only Nicaraguan general to refuse to sign the el tratado del Espino Negro agreement and then headed up to the northern mountains of Las Segovias, where he fought the US Marines for over five years.[14] The revolt finally forced the United States to compromise and leave the country. When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (National Guard),[15] a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests. Anastasio Somoza García, a close friend of the American government, was put in charge. He was one of the three rulers of the country, the others being Sandino and the mostly figurehead President Juan Bautista Sacasa.

After the US Marines withdrew from Nicaragua in January 1933, Sandino and the newly-elected Sacasa government reached an agreement by which he would cease his guerrilla activities in return for amnesty, a grant of land for an agricultural colony, and retention of an armed band of 100 men for a year.[16] But a growing hostility between Sandino and Somoza led Somoza to order the assassination of Sandino.[17][18][15] Fearing future armed opposition from Sandino, Somoza invited him to a meeting in Managua, where Sandino was assassinated on February 21 of 1934 by the National Guard. Hundreds of men, women, and children were executed later.[19]

The Somoza Dynasty (1936 – 1979)

Nicaragua has seen many interventions by the United States. It has also experienced long military dictatorships, the longest one being the rule of the Somoza family for much of the 20th century. The Somoza family came to power as part of a US-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the National Guard to replace the small individual armies that had long reigned in the country.[20] Somoza deposed Sacasa and became president on Jan. 1, 1937 in a rigged election.

Nicaragua was the first country to ratify the UN Charter,[21] and declared war on Germany during World War II. No troops were sent to the war but Somoza did seize the occasion to confiscate attractive properties held by German-Nicaraguans, the best-known of which was the Montelimar estate which today operates as a privately-owned luxury resort and casino.

Somoza used the National Guard to force Sacasa to resign, and took control of the country in 1937, destroying any potential armed resistance.[23] Somoza was in turn assassinated by Rigoberto López Pérez, a liberal Nicaraguan poet, in 1956. After his father’s death, Luis Somoza Debayle, the eldest son of the late dictator, was appointed President by the congress and officially took charge of the country.[15] He is remembered by some for being moderate, but was in power only for a few years and then died of a heart attack. Then came president Rene Schick whom most Nicaraguans viewed “as nothing more than a puppet of the Somozas”.[24] Somoza’s brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who succeeded his father in charge of the National Guard, controlled the country, and officially took the presidency after Schick.

Nicaragua experienced high economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s largely as a result of industrialization,[25] and became one of Central America’s most developed nations despite its political instability. Due to its stable and high growth economy, foreign investments grew, primarily from U.S. companies such as Citigroup, Sears, Westinghouse and Coca Cola. However, the capital city of Managua suffered a major earthquake in 1972 which destroyed nearly 90% of the city creating major losses.[26] Some Nicaraguan historians see the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua as the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for Somoza. The mishandling of relief money also prompted Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente to personally fly to Managua on December 31, 1972, but he died enroute in an airplane accident.[27] Even the economic elite were reluctant to support Somoza, as he had acquired monopolies in industries that were key to rebuilding the nation,[28] and did not allow the elite to share the profits that would result. In 1973 (the year of reconstruction) many new buildings were built, but the level of corruption in the government prevented further growth, and the ever increasing tensions and anti-government uprisings slowed growth in the last two years of the Somoza dynasty.

The Nicaraguan revolution

In 1961, a young student, Carlos Fonseca, turned back to the historical figure of Sandino, and along with 2 others founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).[15] The FSLN was a tiny party throughout most of the 1960s, but Somoza’s utter hatred of it and his heavy-handed treatment of anyone he suspected to be a Sandinista sympathizer gave many ordinary Nicaraguans the idea that the Sandinistas were much stronger.

After the 1972 earthquake and Somoza’s brazen corruption, mishandling of relief, and refusal to rebuild Managua, the ranks of the Sandinistas were flooded with young disaffected Nicaraguans who no longer had anything to lose.[29] These economic problems propelled the Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza by leading many middle- and upper-class Nicaraguans to see the Sandinistas as the only hope for removing the brutal Somoza regime. On January 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the national newspaper La Prensa and ardent opponent of Somoza, was assassinated.[30] This is believed to have led to the extreme general disappointment with Somoza. The planners and perpetrators of the murder were at the highest echelons of the Somoza regime and included the dictator’s son, “El Chiguin”, the President of Housing, Cornelio Hueck, the Attorney General, and Pedro Ramos, a close Cuban ally who commercialized blood plasma.

The Sandinistas, supported by much of the populace, elements of the Catholic Church, and regional and international governments, took power in July of 1979. Somoza fled the country and eventually ended up in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980, allegedly by members of the Argentinian Revolutionary Workers Party.[31] The Sandinistas inherited a country in ruins with a debt of U.S.$1.6 billion dollars, an estimated 50,000 war dead, 600,000 homeless, and a devastated economic infrastructure.[32] To begin the task of establishing a new government, they created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction, made up of five members – Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega and Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado (a member of Los Doce “the Twelve”), businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro). The preponderance of power, however, remained with the Sandinistas and their mass organizations, including the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos).

Sandinistas and the Contras

Upon assuming office in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. His administration authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training rebels, some of whom were the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded “counter-revolutionary” by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[33] This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-Communist forces chose to embrace. Eden Pastora and many of the indigenous guerrilla forces, who were not associated with the “Somozistas,” also resisted the Sandinistas. The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.[33] As was typical in guerrilla warfare, they were engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage in an attempt to combat the Sandinista government and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua’s Corinto harbour,[34] an action condemned by the World Court as illegal.[35][36] The U.S. also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.

U.S. support for this Nicaraguan insurgency continued in spite of the fact that impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Union, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984 were completely free and fair. The Reagan administration disputed these results however, despite the fact that the government of the United States never had any observers in Nicaragua at the time.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (The Iran-Contra Affair).[40] When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about the Iranian “arms for hostages” dealings but professed ignorance about the proceeds funding the Contras; for this, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took much of the blame. Senator John Kerry’s 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra-drug links concluded that “senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.” According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, a Panamanian general and the de facto military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 when he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force. He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992.

The Reagan administration’s support for the Contras continued to stir controversy well into the 1990s. In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the Contras.[44] Freedom of Information Act inquiries by the National Security Archive and other investigators unearthed a number of documents showing that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money raised via drug trafficking to fund the Contras. Sen. John Kerry’s report in 1988 led to the same conclusions; however, major media outlets, the Justice Department, and Reagan denied the allegations.[45]

1990s and the post-Sandinista era

Multi-party democratic elections were held in 1990, which saw the defeat of the Sandinistas by a coalition of anti-Sandinista (from the left and right of the political spectrum) parties led by Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. The defeat shocked the Sandinistas as numerous pre-election polls had indicated a sure Sandinista victory and their pre-election rallies had attracted crowds of several hundred thousand people.[46] The unexpected result was subject to a great deal of analysis and comment, and was attributed by commentators such as Noam Chomsky and S. Brian Willson to the U.S./Contra threats to continue the war if the Sandinistas retained power, the general war-weariness of the Nicaraguan population, and the abysmal Nicaraguan economic situation.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in 1990 became the first female president democratically elected in the Americas.

On the other hand, P. J. O’Rourke wrote in “Return of the Death of Communism”, “the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, about how Sandinista control of the transit system prevented UNO supporters from attending rallies, how Sandinista domination of the army forced soldiers to vote for Ortega and how Sandinista bureaucracy kept $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Daniel Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury . . .”

Exit polls of Nicaraguans reported Chamorro’s victory over Ortega was achieved with only 55%. Violeta Chamorro was the first woman to be popularly elected as President of a Latin American nation and first woman president of Nicaragua. Exit polling convinced Daniel Ortega that the election results were legitimate, and were instrumental in his decision to accept the vote of the people and step down rather than void the election. Nonetheless Ortega vowed that he would govern “desde abajo” (from below),[49] in other words due to his widespread control of institutions and Sandinista individuals in all government agencies, he would still be able to maintain control and govern even without being president.

Chamorro received an economy entirely in ruins. The per capita income of Nicaragua had been reduced by over 80% during the 1980s, and a huge government debt which ascended to US$12 billion primarily due to financial and social costs of the Contra war with the Sandinista-led government.[50] Much to the surprise of the U.S. and the contra forces, Chamorro did not dismantle the Sandinista People’s Army, though the name was changed to the Nicaraguan Army. Chamorro’s main contribution to Nicaragua was the disarmament of groups in the northern and central areas of the country. This provided stability that the country had lacked for over ten years.

In subsequent elections in 1996 Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas of the FSLN were again defeated, this time by Arnoldo Alemán of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC).

In the 2001 elections the PLC again defeated the FSLN, with Enrique Bolaños winning the Presidency. However, President Bolaños subsequently charged and brought forward allegations of money laundering, theft and corruption against former President Alemán. The ex-president was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement, money laundering, and corruption.[51] The Liberal members who were loyal to Alemán and also members of congress reacted angrily, and along with Sandinista parliament members stripped the presidential powers of President Bolaños and his ministers, calling for his resignation and threatening impeachment.

President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, Celebrating May 1, 2005, in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. President Ortega is currently serving his second term.

The Sandinistas alleged that their support for Bolaños was lost when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Bolaños to keep his distance from the FSLN.[52] This “slow motion coup” was averted partially due to pressure from the Central American presidents who would fail to recognize any movement that removed Bolaños; The U.S., the OAS, and the European Union also opposed the “slow motion coup”.[53] The proposed constitutional changes that were going to be introduced in 2005 against the Bolaños administration were delayed until January 2007 after the entrance of the new government. Though 1 day before they were enforced the National Assembly postponed their enforcement until January 2008.

Before the general elections on 5 November 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill further restricting abortion in Nicaragua 52-0 (9 abstaining, 29 absent). President Enrique Bolaños supported this measure, but signed the bill into law on 17 November 2006,[54] as a result Nicaragua is one of three countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exceptions, along with El Salvador and Chile.

Legislative and presidential elections took place on November 5, 2006. Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency with 37.99% of the vote. This percentage was enough to win the presidency outright, due to a change in electoral law which lowered the percentage requiring a runoff election from 45% to 35% (with a 5% margin of victory).

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 129,494 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than the state of New York
Land boundaries: total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
Coastline: 910 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate: tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
Terrain: extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources: gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use: arable land: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)
Irrigated land: 610 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 196.7 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.3 cu km/yr (15%/2%/83%)
per capita: 237 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
Politics Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
People Population: 5,785,846 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.6% (male 1,019,281/female 981,903)
15-64 years: 62.1% (male 1,792,398/female 1,803,133)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 82,840/female 106,291) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.7 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 22.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.825% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 23.7 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 25.91 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.21 years
male: 69.08 years
female: 73.44 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.63 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Palau: The Truth, Knowledge And History Of The People Of This Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Palau

Introduction After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year, when the islands gained independence.
History Archaeology

Early Palauans may have come from Australia, Polynesia and Asia. Depending on the thread of the family, Palauans may indeed represent many parts of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, it is traditionally not considered to be Micronesian. According to geneticists, there are two distinctive strains of Melanesian bloodlines: one is associated with indigenous Australians/Papua New Guineans and the other is known to have originated in Asia. There has not been any link established between the two.

In the European and Australian world Belau/Pelew is better known by the name of “The Black Islands”. Vintage maps and village drawings can be found at the Australian library online, as well as photos of the tattooed and pierced Ibedul of Koror and Ludee.

Carbon dating and recent archaeological discoveries have brought new attention to the archipelago. Cemeteries uncovered in islands have shown Palau has the oldest burial ceremony known to Oceania. Prior to this there has been much dispute as to whether Palau was established during 2500 BC or 1000 BC. New studies seem to dispute both of these findings. Moreover, Palau’s ancient trading partner, Java, has also come under close scrutiny since Homo floresiensis was found. Like Flores, remains of small-bodied humans have been found in Palau.[1]

For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents. Traditionally, land, money, and titles passed through the female line. Clan lands continue to be passed through titled women and first daughters[2] but there is also a modern patrilineal sentiment introduced by imperial Japan. The Japanese government attempted to confiscate and redistribute tribal land into personal ownership during World War II, and there has been little attempt to restore the old order. Legal entanglements continue amongst the various clans

European contact

Historians take interest in the early navigational routes of European explorers in the Pacific. There is a certain controversy as to whether Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, who landed in several Caroline Islands, spotted the Palau archipelago in 1543. No conclusive evidence exists but there are some who think he could have seen the tip of a southernmost island in the group.

Palau had limited relations—mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not have been for ship-wrecked islanders who accidentally took refuge in the Philippines, Europeans likely would not have found a route to Palau until much later. English Captain Henry Wilson also shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783.[4] Wilson dubbed Palau the “Pelew Islands”.

Spanish rule

Like the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands, Palau was part of the Spanish East Indies, and was administered from the Spanish Philippines until the Spanish-American War of 1898.

In 1885, after Germany occupied some of the islands, a dispute was brought to Pope Leo XIII, who made an attempt to legitimize the Spanish claim to the islands (but with economic concessions for Britain and Germany). Spain in 1899, after defeat during the Spanish-American War, sold the islands to Germany in the 1899 German-Spanish Treaty.

German era

After the Spanish sold the islands to Germany, the Germans began an economic transformation in Micronesia. The Germans began mining bauxite (an aluminum ore), Phosphate, and other resources. The islands were also administered by German New Guinea. Mining continued throughout Micronesia even after the Germans lost the islands to Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I. The Japanese continued and expanded the mining operations.

Japanese rule

During World War I, under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Empire of Japan declared war on the German Empire and invaded German overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean, including the Palau Islands. Following Germany’s defeat, the League of Nations formally awarded Palau to Japan as a Class C League of Nations Mandate. [7]

Under the terms of a “Class C Mandate” Japan incorporated the islands as an integral part of its empire, establishing the Nanyo-cho government. [8] Initially under Imperial Japanese Navy administration, civilian control was introduced from 1922, and Palau was one of six administrative districts within the Mandate. Japan mounted an aggressive economic development program and promoted immigration by Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans. During this period, the Japanese established bonito (skipjack tuna) production and copra processing plants in Palau.

World War II

Peleliu was the scene of intense fighting between American and Japanese forces beginning September 1944 resulting in an Allied victory, though the cost in human terms was high for both sides. After WWII, the United Nations played a role in deciding the U.S. would administer Palau as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Eventually, in 1979, Palauans voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia based on language and cultural differences. After a long period of transition, including the violent deaths of two presidents (Haruo Remeliik in 1985 and Lazarus Salii in 1988), Palau voted to freely associate with the United States in 1994 while opting to retain independence under the Compact of Free Association.

There are still roughly 100 American service members listed as Missing In Action (MIA) in Palau since WWII. Since 1993, a small group of American volunteers called The BentProp Project have searched the waters and jungles of Palau to attempt to locate information that can lead to the identification and recovery of remains of these American MIAs.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 30 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 458 sq km
land: 458 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,519 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November
Terrain: varying geologically from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m
Natural resources: forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 8.7%
permanent crops: 4.35%
other: 86.95% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: typhoons (June to December)
Environment – current issues: inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal fishing practices, and overfishing
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands
Politics Palau’s politics takes place in a multi-party framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Palau is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the Palau National Congress. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Foreign relations

Palau gained its independence October 1, 1994, when the Compact of Free Association with the United States came into force. Palau was the last portion of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to gain its independence. Under the Compact, the U.S. remains responsible for Palau’s defense for 50 years, and Palauans are allowed to serve in the U.S. military without having to possess permanent residency in the U.S.

Palau is a sovereign nation and conducts its own foreign relations. Since independence, Palau has established diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including many of its Pacific neighbors. Palau was admitted to the United Nations on December 15, 1994, and has since joined several other international organizations. In September 2006, Palau hosted the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit, and its President has gone on several official visits to other Pacific countries, including the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The United States maintains the usual diplomatic delegation and an embassy in Palau, but most aspects of the two countries’ relationship have to do with Compact-funded projects, which are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. This has led to some ambiguity in the official status of Palau, though regarded as de jure independent.

Nuclear-free constitution

In 1981, Palau voted for the world’s first nuclear-free constitution. However, this delayed Palau’s independence as it also wanted a Compact of Free Association with the United States, which the U.S. would not agree to as long as the anti-nuclear clause was in place; thus the United Nations delayed terminating the U.S. trusteeship. Palauan independence was finally achieved after the anti-nuclear clause was repealed.

One of the notable aspects of the Palauan resistance to nuclear research is the leadership of women activists such as Cita Morei and Isabella Sumang.

People Population: 21,093 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 25.8% (male 2,797/female 2,637)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 7,864/female 6,779)
65 years and over: 4.8% (male 482/female 534) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 32.3 years
male: 33.3 years
female: 31.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.157% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.4 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.73 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.16 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 15.37 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71 years
male: 67.82 years
female: 74.36 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.45 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Palauan(s)
adjective: Palauan
Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 69.9%, Filipino 15.3%, Chinese 4.9%, other Asian 2.4%, white 1.9%, Carolinian 1.4%, other Micronesian 1.1%, other or unspecified 3.2% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 41.6%, Protestant 23.3%, Modekngei 8.8% (indigenous to Palau), Seventh-Day Adventist 5.3%, Jehovah’s Witness 0.9%, Latter-Day Saints 0.6%, other 3.1%, unspecified or none 16.4% (2000 census)
Languages: Palauan 64.7% official in all islands except Sonsoral (Sonsoralese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official), Filipino 13.5%, English 9.4%, Chinese 5.7%, Carolinian 1.5%, Japanese 1.5%, other Asian 2.3%, other languages 1.5% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92%
male: 93%
female: 90% (1980 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 15 years (2000)
Education expenditures: 10.3% of GDP (2002)

Panama: The Truth, Knowledge And The History Of The Nation/People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Panama

Introduction Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal’s capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
History Christopher Columbus arrives in Panama on his fourth travel, which started in Nicaragua and ended in Panama. It is in this trip he discovers the Chagres river, which in the XX Century it would be the main resource to build the Panama Canal. He arrived to the Caribbean coast where he baptized the area with the name of Portobelo (in English, Beautiful Port). Columbus then explored Veraguas and founded Santa Maria de Belen, which would be the first Spanish settlement on the continent, leaving Bartolome, his brother, in charge.

Eventually, this settlement was destroyed by the local native population and the few surviving members returned to Spain.

Founding of Panama La Vieja

It wasn´t until 1519 when the Spanish decided to settle the new city. This time they chose a site in the Pacific ocean, which was discovered six years before by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. The new city, today known as Panama La Vieja, was founded in August 15th, 1519 by orders of governor Pedrarias Davila and became an important port during the Spanish gold trade from Peru to the Caribbean islands and finally to Europe. The merchandise from all over South America would come into Panama and travel to Portobelo using the Camino de Cruces (old stone road) crossing the jungle and navigating the Chagres river. From Portobelo it would distribute to the islands and then to Spain.

Because of its importance and its location the city was an easy target for pirates. However, protection from pirates was only one of its many problems, as it was settled in a site composed mainly by mangrove land, diseases and fires weakened their position, until it was finally destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.

Founding of Casco Antiguo

In 1673 a new city of Panama was founded. This time, a rocky peninsula was chosen, still on the Pacific side. A healthier site with crossed winds and easier to defend from both land and ocean attacks. Called interchangeably Casco Viejo, San Felipe, Catedral or Casco Antiguo, it is from here where Panama would declare independece from Spain and later join and separate from Colombia. It will see the boom and bust of the Gold Rush, the French attempt to build a Canal and later its completion by the United States.

Independence

After about 320 years under the rule of the Spanish Empire, on 10 November 1821, independence from Spain was declared in the small town of La Villa, today known as La Heroica. On 28 November, presided by Colonel Jose de Fabrega, a National Assembly was convened and it officially declared the independence of the isthmus of Panama from Spain and its decision to join New Granada, Ecuador and Venezuela in Bolivar’s recently founded Republic of Colombia.

In 1830, Venezuela, Ecuador and other territories left the Gran Colombia, but Panama remained as a province of this country, until July 1831 when the isthmus reiterated its independence, now under General Juan Eligio Alzuru as supreme military commander. In August, military forces under the command of Colonel Tomás Herrera defeated and executed Alzuru and reestablished ties with New Granada.

Ten years later, on November 1840, during a civil war that had begun as a religious conflict, the isthmus declared its independence under the leadership of the now General Tomás Herrera and became the ‘Estado Libre del Istmo’, or the Free State of the Isthmus. The new state established external political and economic ties and drew up a constitution which included the possibility for Panama to rejoin New Granada, but only as a federal district. On June 1841 Tomás Herrera became the President of the Estado Libre del Istmo. But the civil conflict ended and the government of New Granada and the government of the Isthmus negotiated the reincorporation of Panamá to Colombia on December 31, 1841.

In the end, the union between Panama and the Republic of Colombia was made possible by the active participation of the US under the 1846 Bidlack Mallarino Treaty, which lasted until 1903. The treaty granted the US rights to build railroads through Panama and to intervene militarily against revolt to guarantee New Granadine control of Panama. There were at least three attempts by Panamanian Liberals to seize control of Panama and potentially achieve full autonomy, including one led by Liberal guerrillas like Belisario Porras and Victoriano Lorenzo, each of which was suppressed by a collaboration of Conservative Colombian and US forces under the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty.

In 1902 US President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the abandoned works of the Panama Canal by the French but the Colombian government in Bogotá balked at the prospect of a US controlled canal under the terms that Roosevelt’s administration was offering. Roosevelt was unwilling to alter its terms and quickly changed tactics, encouraging a minority of Conservative Panamanian landholding families to demand independence, offering military support. On November 3, 1903 Panama finally separated and Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, a prominent member of the Conservative political party, became the first constitutional President of the Republic of Panama.

In November 1903, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla—a French citizen who was not authorized to sign any treaties on behalf of Panama without the review of the Panamanians—unilaterally signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the US to build and administer indefinitely the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. This treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries, reaching a boiling point on Martyr’s Day (9 January 1964). The issues were resolved with the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977 returning the former Canal Zone territories to Panama.

Military dictators

The second intent of the founding fathers was to bring peace and harmony between the two major political parties (Conservatives and Liberals). The Panamanian government went through periods of political instability and corruption, however, and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected president terminated prematurely. In 1968, a coup toppled the government of the recently elected President Arnulfo Arias Madrid.

While never holding the position of President himself, General Omar Torrijos eventually became the de facto leader of Panama. As a military dictator, he was the leading power in the governing military junta and later became an autocratic strong man. Torrijos maintained his position of power until his death in an airplane accident in 1981.

After Torrijos’s death, several military strong men followed him as Panama’s leader. Commander Florencio Flores Aguilar followed Torrijos. Colonel Rubén Darío Paredes followed Aguilar. Eventually, by 1983, power was concentrated in the hands of General Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Manuel Noriega came up through the ranks after serving in the Chiriquí province and in the city of Puerto Armuelles for a time. He was a former head of Panama’s secret police and was an ex-informant of the CIA. But Noriega’s implication in drug trafficking by the United States resulted in difficult relations by the end of the 1980s.

United States invasion of Panama

On 20 December 1989, 27,000 U.S. personnel invaded Panama in order to remove Manuel Noriega.[2] A few hours before the invasion, in a ceremony that took place inside a U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new President of Panama. The invasion occurred ten years before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. During the fighting, between two hundred [3] [4] and four thousand Panamanians,[5][6] mostly civilians, were killed.

Noriega surrendered to the American military shortly after, and was taken to Florida to be formally extradited and charged by U.S. federal authorities on drug and racketeering charges. He became eligible for parole on September 9, 2007, but remained in custody while his lawyers fought an extradition request from France. Critics have pointed out that many of Noriega’s former allies remain in power in Panama.

Post-invasion

Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the United States turned over all canal-related lands to Panama on 31 December 1999. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.

The people of Panama have already approved the widening of the canal which, after completion, will allow for post-Panamax vessels to travel through it, increasing the number of ships that currently use the canal.

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km
Coastline: 2,490 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or edge of continental margin
Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m
Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 7.26%
permanent crops: 1.95%
other: 90.79% (2005)
Irrigated land: 430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 148 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environment – current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Politics Politics of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The branches are according to Panama’s Political Constitution of 1972, reformed by the Actos Reformatorios of 1978, and by the Acto Constitucional in 1983, united in cooperation and limited through the classic system of checks and balances. Three independent organizations with clearly defined responsibilities are found in the Political Constitution. Thus, the Comptroller General of the Republic has the responsibility to manage public funds. There also exists the Electoral Tribunal, which has the responsibility to guarantee liberty, transparency, and the efficacy of the popular vote; and, finally, the Ministry of the Public exists to oversee interests of State and of the municipalities.
People Population: 3,309,679 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 499,254/female 479,242)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 1,066,915/female 1,043,499)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 102,937/female 117,832) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26.7 years
male: 26.3 years
female: 27.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.544% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.68 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.4 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.88 years
male: 74.08 years
female: 79.81 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 16,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Panamanian(s)
adjective: Panamanian
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note – many Panamanians bilingual
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 91.9%
male: 92.5%
female: 91.2% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2004)

Philippines: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Great People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Philippines

Introduction The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel QUEZON was elected president and was tasked with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence. The 20-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986, when a “people power” movement in Manila (“EDSA 1”) forced him into exile and installed Corazon AQUINO as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which prevented a return to full political stability and economic development. Fidel RAMOS was elected president in 1992 and his administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands. Joseph ESTRADA was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, in January 2001 after ESTRADA’s stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and another “people power” movement (“EDSA 2”) demanded his resignation. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO was elected to a six-year term as president in May 2004. The Philippine Government faces threats from three terrorist groups on the US Government’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, but in 2006 and 2007 scored some major successes in capturing or killing key wanted terrorists. Decades of Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines have led to a peace accord with one group and an ongoing cease-fire and peace talks with another.
History Archaeological and paleontological discoveries show that Homo sapiens existed in Palawan circa 50,000 BC. The aboriginal people of the Philippines, the Negritos, are an Australo-Melanesian people, which arrived in the Philippines at least 30,000 years ago. The Austronesian’s, who originated from populations of Taiwanese aboriginals that migrated from mainland Asia approximately 6000 years ago, colonized the Philippine islands and eventually migrated to Indonesia, Malaysia and, soon after, to the Polynesian islands and Madagascar.

The Philippines had cultural ties with Malaysia, Indonesia, India in ancient times, and trade relations with China and Japan as early as the 9th century.

Islam was brought to the Philippines by traders and proselytizers from Malaysia and Indonesia. The Islamization of the Philippines is due to the strength of then-Muslim India.[13] By the 13th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there to Mindanao; it had reached the Manila area by 1565. Muslim converts established Islamic communities and states ruled by rajas or sultans. However, no Islamic state exercised sovereignty over much of the archipelago, and the indigenous maritime and agricultural societies ruled by datus or apos remained autonomous. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the majority of the estimated 500,000 people in the islands lived in independent settlements called ‘barangay’ or networks of settlements.

In the service of Spain, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew started their voyage on September 20, 1519. Magellan sighted Samar on March 17, 1521, on the next day, they reached Homonhon. They reached the island of Mazaua on March 28, 1521 where the first mass in the Philippines was celebrated on March 31, 1521.[11] Magellan arrived at Cebu on April 7, 1521, befriending Rajah Humabon and converting his family and 700 other Cebuanos to Christianity.[11] However, Magellan would later be killed in the Battle of Mactan by indigenous warriors led by Lapu-Lapu, a fierce rival of Humabon.

The beginnings of colonization started to take form when Philip II of Spain ordered successive expeditions. Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first Spanish settlements in Cebu. In 1571 he established Manila as the capital of the new Spanish colony.

Spanish rule brought political unification to the archipelago of previously independent islands and communities, and introduced elements of western civilization such as the code of law, printing and the Gregorian calendar[15]. The Philippines was ruled as a territory of New Spain from 1565 to 1821, but after Mexican independence it was administered directly from Madrid. During that time numerous towns were founded, infrastructures built, new crops and livestock introduced, and trade flourished. The Manila Galleon which linked Manila to Acapulco once or twice a year beginning in the late 16th century, carried silk, spices, ivory and porcelain to America and silver on the return trip to the Philippines. The Spanish military fought off various indigenous revolts and several external threats, especially from the British, Chinese pirates, Dutch, and Portuguese. Roman Catholic missionaries converted most of the inhabitants to Christianity, and founded numerous schools, universities and hospitals. In 1863 a Spanish decree introduced public education, creating free public schooling in Spanish .

The Propaganda Movement, which included Philippine nationalist José Rizal, then a student studying in Spain, soon developed on the Spanish mainland. This was done in order to inform the government of the injustices of the administration in the Philippines as well as the abuses of the friars. In the 1880s and the 1890s, the propagandists clamored for political and social reforms, which included demands for greater representation in Spain. Unable to gain the reforms, Rizal returned to the country, and pushed for the reforms locally. Rizal was subsequently arrested, tried, and executed for treason on December 30, 1896. Earlier that year, the Katipunan, led by Andrés Bonifacio, had already started a revolution, which was eventually continued by Emilio Aguinaldo, who established a revolutionary government, although the Spanish governor general Fernando Primo de Rivera proclaimed the revolution over in May 17, 1897.

The Spanish-American War began in Cuba in 1898 and soon reached the Philippines when Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron at the Manila Bay. Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898, and was proclaimed head of state. As a result of its defeat, Spain was forced to officially cede the Philippines, together with Cuba (which was made an independent country, albeit with the US in charge of foreign affairs), Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. In 1899 the First Philippine Republic was proclaimed in Malolos, Bulacan but was later dissolved by the US forces, leading to the Philippine-American War between the United States and the Philippine revolutionaries, which continued the violence of the previous years. The US proclaimed the war ended when Aguinaldo was captured by American troops on March 23, 1901, but the struggle continued until 1913 claiming the lives of over a million Filipinos[19] [20]. The country’s status as a territory changed when it became the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935, which provided for more self-governance. Plans for increasing independence over the next decade were interrupted during World War II when Japan invaded and occupied the islands. After the Japanese were defeated in 1945 and control returned to the Filipino and American forces in the Liberation of the Philippines from 1944 to 1945, the Philippines was granted independence from the United States on July 4, 1946.

Since 1946, the newly independent Philippine state has faced political instability. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw economic development that was second in Asia, next to Japan. Ferdinand Marcos was, then, the elected president. Barred from seeking a third term, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, under the guise of increased political instability and resurgent Communist and Muslim insurgencies, and ruled the country by decree.

Upon returning from exile in the United States, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. or “Ninoy”, was assassinated on August 21, 1983. In January 1986, Marcos allowed for a snap election, after large protests. The election was believed to be fraudulent, and resulted in a standoff between military mutineers and the military loyalists. Protesters supported the mutineers, and were accompanied by resignations of prominent cabinet officials. Corazon Aquino, the widow of Ninoy, was the recognized winner of the snap election. She took over the government, and called for a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution, after the People Power Revolution. Marcos, his family and some of his allies fled to Hawaii.

The return of democracy and government reforms after the events of 1986 were hampered by massive national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, a communist insurgency, and a Muslim separatist movement. The economy improved during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, who was elected in 1992.[22] However, the economic improvements were negated at the onset of the East Asian financial crisis in 1997. The 2001 EDSA Revolution led to the downfall of the following president, Joseph Estrada. The current administration of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been hounded by allegations of corruption and election rigging.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 122 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 300,000 sq km
land: 298,170 sq km
water: 1,830 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Arizona
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 36,289 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nm from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nm in breadth
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Terrain: mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Philippine Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Apo 2,954 m
Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper
Land use: arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 16.67%
other: 64.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: 15,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 479 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 28.52 cu km/yr (17%/9%/74%)
per capita: 343 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: astride typhoon belt, usually affected by 15 and struck by five to six cyclonic storms per year; landslides; active volcanoes; destructive earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment – current issues: uncontrolled deforestation especially in watershed areas; soil erosion; air and water pollution in major urban centers; coral reef degradation; increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps that are important fish breeding grounds
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography – note: the Philippine archipelago is made up of 7,107 islands; favorably located in relation to many of Southeast Asia’s main water bodies: the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Luzon Strait
Politics The Philippines has a presidential, unitary form of government (with some modification; there is one autonomous region largely free from the national government), where the President functions as both head of state and head of government, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a single six-year term, during which time she or he appoints and presides over the cabinet.[2]

The bicameral Congress is composed of a Senate, serving as the upper house whose members are elected nationally to a six-year term, and a House of Representatives serving as the lower house whose members are elected to a three-year term and are elected from both legislative districts and through sectoral representation.

The judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, composed of a Chief Justice as its presiding officer and fourteen associate justices, all appointed by the President from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.

Attempts to amend the constitution to either a federal, unicameral or parliamentary form of government have repeatedly failed since the Ramos administration.

The Philippines is a founding and active member of the United Nations since its inception on October 24, 1945 and is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS), an active player in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Latin Union, and a member of the Group of 24. The country is a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. but also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

People Population: 96,061,680 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.5% (male 17,392,780/female 16,708,255)
15-64 years: 60.4% (male 28,986,232/female 29,076,329)
65 years and over: 4.1% (male 1,682,485/female 2,215,602) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 22.3 years
male: 21.8 years
female: 22.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.991% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 26.42 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.15 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.36 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.8 years
male: 67.89 years
female: 73.85 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.32 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 9,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2008)
Nationality: noun: Filipino(s)
adjective: Philippine
Ethnic groups: Tagalog 28.1%, Cebuano 13.1%, Ilocano 9%, Bisaya/Binisaya 7.6%, Hiligaynon Ilonggo 7.5%, Bikol 6%, Waray 3.4%, other 25.3% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)
Languages: Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects – Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.6%
male: 92.5%
female: 92.7% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 2.5% of GDP (2005)

Spain: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of The Great Nation Of Spain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Spain

Introduction Spain’s powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II but suffered through a devastating civil war (1936-39). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco FRANCO in 1975, and rapid economic modernization (Spain joined the EU in 1986) have given Spain one of the most dynamic economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom. Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism, illegal immigration, and slowing economic growth.
History After a long and hard conquest, the Iberian Peninsula became a region of the Roman Empire known as Hispania. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later it was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power during the 16th century and first half of the 17th century; but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos; triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in an impressive economic surge. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a parliamentry constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples

Archeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was peopled 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula through the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive culture—known as Celtiberian—was present. In addition, Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains. Other ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location of present-day Cádiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon. Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars, until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.

Roman Empire and Germanic invasions

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC, leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula; this lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.

The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.[note 8][5] Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century CE. Most of Spain’s present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period. Rome’s loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal. The Alans’ allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending further south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name – Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain.

Muslim Iberia

In the 8th century, several areas of the Iberian Peninsula were conquered (711-718) by mainly Muslims (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Islamic Empire.[note 10] Only a number of areas in the north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion, occupying areas roughly corresponding to modern Asturias, Navarre and northern Aragon.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as “peoples of the book”, and were free to practice their religion, but faced a number of mandatory discriminations and penalties as dhimmis. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. Following the mass conversions in the 10th and 11th centuries it is believed that Muslims came to outnumber Christians in the remaining Muslim controlled areas.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa, who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city of medieval western Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a great part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanized cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture. Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories and consolidate their positions. The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

Given the honored title by the Pope, Catholic MonarchsFerdinand and Isabella, were probably one of the most powerful and accomplished couples in history; they reinforced the Reconquista, founded the Spanish Inquisition, and sponsered Christopher Columbus during the discovery of the New World.

The Reconquista (“Reconquest”) is the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain’s Christian kingdoms; Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the battle of Covadonga in 722 and being concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army’s victory over the Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northern coastal mountains. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers in France. Subsequently, they retreated to more secure positions south of the Pyrenees with a frontier marked by the Ebro and Duero rivers in Spain. As early as 739 Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to host one of medieval Europe’s holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela. A little later Frankish forces established Christian counties south of the Pyrenees; these areas were to grow into kingdoms, in the north-east and the western part of the Pyrenees. These territories included Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern half of Spain. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. Marinid invasions from north Africa in the 13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragon, formed by Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily. Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established; among the earliest in Europe. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1478 began the final stage of the conquest of Canary Islands and in 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain’s Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition. Not long after, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España – whose root is the ancient name Hispania – began to be used commonly to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.

Spanish Empire

The unification of the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, León, and Navarre laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire. Spain was Europe’s leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs – Charles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period also saw the Italian Wars, the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.

Philip II of Spain

The Spanish Empire expanded to include most parts of South and Central America, Mexico, southern and western portions of today’s United States, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands in Eastern Asia, parts of northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicily, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of France, modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun never set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening-up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish and other explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, playing a leading part in transforming Europeans understanding of the globe. The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. Barbary pirates under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed the threat of an Islamic invasion.[note 15] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere. Later the Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by an intellectual movement known as the School of Salamanca.

By the middle decades of a war and plague ridden 17th century Europe, the effects of the strain began to show. The Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed the country in the continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to most of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help the imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France. However Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession, a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent.

During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an increase in prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom’s elite and monarchy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain’s international standing.

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795 and effectively became a client state of that country; the following year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. On 2 May 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, one of many across the country, marking the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British Army to retreat to Corunna. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain’s economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain’s colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spanish-American War

Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest levels of command that the Spanish-American war of 1898 was soon over. “El Desastre” (The Disaster), as the war became known in Spain, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country. It also weakened the stability that had been established during Alfonso XII’s reign.

20th century

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico and international brigades , most famously the american ‘Abraham Lincon Brigade’, but it was not supported officially by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis.

The only legal party under Franco’s regime was the Falange española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Nonetheless, since Franco’s anti-democratic ideology was opposed to the idea of political parties, the new party was renamed officially a National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when due to the Cold War it became strategically important for the U.S. to create a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to protect southern Europe. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which rapidly resumed the long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.

Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the State devolved autonomy to the regions and created an internal organization based on autonomous communities. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the separatist group ETA.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government. However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority and addressed the usurpers via national TV as commander in chief to put down the bloodless coup attempt.

On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. Also in 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, representing the return of a left-wing government after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community – what has now become the European Union. The PSOE was replaced in government by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against the separatist and terrorist organization ETA (“Basque Homeland and Freedom”), founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA’s nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.

21st century

On 1 January 2002, Spain terminated its peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which it shares with 14 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average, but concerns are growing that the extraordinary property boom and high foreign trade deficits of recent years may bring this to an end.

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda. The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later. Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath. At the 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a relative majority, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.

Geography Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 4 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 504,782 sq km
land: 499,542 sq km
water: 5,240 sq km
note: there are two autonomous cities – Ceuta and Melilla – and 17 autonomous communities including Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and three small Spanish possessions off the coast of Morocco – Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 1,917.8 km
border countries: Andorra 63.7 km, France 623 km, Gibraltar 1.2 km, Portugal 1,214 km, Morocco (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Morocco (Melilla) 9.6 km
Coastline: 4,964 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (applies only to the Atlantic Ocean)
Climate: temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast
Terrain: large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m
Natural resources: coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, mercury, pyrites, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land
Land use: arable land: 27.18%
permanent crops: 9.85%
other: 62.97% (2005)
Irrigated land: 37,800 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 111.1 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 37.22 cu km/yr (13%/19%/68%)
per capita: 864 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from raw sewage and effluents from the offshore production of oil and gas; water quality and quantity nationwide; air pollution; deforestation; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography – note: strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar
Politics Constitution

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy.

The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution of 1812. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, a general election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament, in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.

As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation as well as that Spain has today no official religion but all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

Government

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

The Spanish nation is organizationally composed in the form of called Estado de las Autonomías (“State of Autonomies”); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[30] for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources; therefore, health and education systems among others are managed regionally, besides, the Basque Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police functions (see Mossos d’Esquadra and Ertzaintza).

People Population: 40,491,052 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.4% (male 3,011,815/female 2,832,788)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 13,741,493/female 13,641,914)
65 years and over: 17.9% (male 3,031,597/female 4,231,444) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40.7 years
male: 39.3 years
female: 42.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.096% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.87 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 9.9 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.65 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.92 years
male: 76.6 years
female: 83.45 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.3 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.7% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 1,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Spaniard(s)
adjective: Spanish
Ethnic groups: composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Languages: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%, are official regionally
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 98.7%
female: 97.2% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 4.2% of GDP (2005)

3 Astronauts Take Off For International Space Station

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, bottom, U.S. astronaut Scott Tingle, above, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, prior to the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket in Kazakhstan, on Dec. 17, 2017
Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, bottom, U.S. astronaut Scott Tingle, above, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, prior to the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket in Kazakhstan, on Dec. 17, 2017
Shamil Zhumatov—AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

December 17, 2017

(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) — A capsule carrying three astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States has blasted off for a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz capsule with Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle launched at 1:23 p.m. (0723 GMT; 2:23 a.m. EST) Sunday from Russia’s manned space-launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It entered orbit nine minutes later.

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It is the first space flight for Tingle and Kanai; Shkaplerov is on his third mission to the ISS.

The capsule is to dock on Tuesday with the orbiting space laboratory. The three will join Russia’s Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba and Mark Vandde Hei of NASA, who have been aboard since September.

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Catalonia’s leaders are jailed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed a week after the region declared independence


Thousands of people rally outside the regional presidential palace in Barcelona on Tuesday to show their support for those appearing in court. (Manu Fernandez/AP)
 November 2 at 4:12 PM
 A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the jailing of eight of Catalonia’s separatist leaders a week after the region declared independence, extending the tough crackdown on the breakaway effort.The decision not to free the former officials on bail ahead of their trials on charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds came after an Oct. 27 takeover of the region following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to secede.

The imprisonments set off an immediate outcry from independence advocates in Catalonia, who said they fit into a repressive pattern from the Spanish state that began when national police intervened with truncheons and violence to try to prevent an independence referendum from being held on Oct. 1. Town squares across Catalonia filled with protesters after the decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.

A prosecutor also asked Judge Carmen Lamela to approve an international arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium on Monday alongside other officials. An extradition request would set the ground for a difficult diplomatic dance between Spain and Belgium, which allows E.U. citizens to claim political asylum and which is partly ruled by Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalan cause.

Lamela planned to decide on the warrant Friday. In denying bail, she said the leaders still in Spain were a flight risk, citing the retreat by Puigdemont and others to Brussels.

 Play Video 0:48
Catalan secessionist leaders arrive at court without Puigdemont
Catalonia’s secessionist leaders arrived at a Madrid court Nov. 2 to answer charges of rebellion and sedition. The region’s former president Carles Puigdemont said he would not turn up. (Reuters)

Puigdemont refused to appear at the Madrid court on Thursday, saying that the charges were politically motivated. The leaders are facing prison terms of up to 30 years. In all, 20 officials are charged.

Apart from the eight people sent to jail Thursday, a ninth was allowed free on bail of $58,000 because he resigned from the Catalan government before the independence declaration.

“A long and fierce repression lies ahead. We must combat the situation as Catalans do, without violence, in peace,” Puigdemont said Thursday in a televised address to Catalans that appeared to be recorded in his Brussels hotel room. He has said that he remains Catalonia’s leader and that the decision by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use constitutional powers to strip him of office was illegal.

The decision to put the former officials behind bars meant that the highest-profile Catalan separatist leaders will probably not be able to run in Dec. 21 regional elections that Rajoy called after dismissing the government. After darkness fell Thursday, the former officials were transferred in police vans with flashing blue lights to the Alcala-Meco Prison outside Madrid.

The move was condemned even by some pro-union Catalan leaders, who said it was needlessly harsh.

“This is a black day for democracy and for Catalonia,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who appeared close to tears as she spoke to journalists late Thursday. Colau has said she believes Catalonia should have more autonomy but should not be independent.

The crackdown drew condemnation from several other leaders in Europe, including the heads of Scotland and Belgian Flanders, two regions that have sought independence or more autonomy from their national governments.

“Jailing democratically elected government leaders = more than bridge too far,” the leader of Belgium’s Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, wrote on Twitter.

That was echoed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote that “regardless of opinion on Catalonia, the jailing of elected leaders is wrong and should be condemned by all democrats.” She added: “The disagreement about Catalonia’s future is political. It should be resolved democratically — not by the jailing of political opponents.”

Opinion polls show that support for independence in Catalonia is growing but that slightly less than half of the population seeks a split.

Braden Phillips contributed to this report.

Spanish Jews Come Out Against Catalan Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

AS SPANISH JEWS WE WHOLLY SUPPORT THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION’

Breaking neutrality, Spanish Jews come out against Catalan independence

Despite umbrella body statement, Jews living in the secessionist region appear divided over the crisis that is roiling the country

  • People gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
    People gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
  • Catalan president Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for a motion on declaring independence from Spain, during a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
    Catalan president Carles Puigdemont casts his vote for a motion on declaring independence from Spain, during a session of the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)
  • People gather in front of the 'Generalitat' palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
    People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
  • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO)
    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives a press conference after a cabinet meeting at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO)
  • People gather in front of the 'Generalitat' palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Lluis Gene/AFP)
    People gather in front of the ‘Generalitat’ palace (Catalan government headquarters) at the Sant Jaume square to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Lluis Gene/AFP)
  • People celebrate after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on October 27, 2017 in Barcelona. ( AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
    People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on October 27, 2017 in Barcelona. ( AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
  • People celebrate after Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Pau Barrena/AFP)
    People celebrate after Catalonia’s parliament voted to declare independence from Spain in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. (Pau Barrena/AFP)

Breaking with its policy of neutrality on Catalan independence, the main umbrella group of Spanish Jews on Friday blamed separatists for the kingdom’s crisis and declared allegiance to the constitution.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, did this in a statement released hours after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain, as Madrid vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash the region’s secessionist bid.

Expressing “deep concern over the grave national crisis,” the statement by the federation went on to state this crisis was “caused by the unilateral declaration of independence” of the regional government of Catalonia through its parliament.

”As Spanish Jews we wholly support the Spanish Constitution, the rule of law as applied in accordance with the law, solidarity and equality between all Spanish people and the unity of Spain,” read the statement. Authorities will “restore normalcy in Catalonia,” continued the anti-secessionist statement, “and throughout all of Spain, and that, finally, fraternity and peaceful coexistence as Spanish citizens.”

The Madrid-based federation’s statement notwithstanding, the Jews of Catalonia, who, according to the European Jewish Congress make up a third of Spain total Jewish population of 45,000, are deeply divided on the issue of independence, according to Victor Sorenssen, the leader of the Jewish community of Barcelona, which is the capital of Catalonia.

Barcelona Jewish Community Spokesperson Victor Sorrenssen ( Screen Capture/ YouTube)

“This is a political matter that doesn’t directly concern Judaism, so the community has no position on it as such,” Sorenssen said earlier this month of the organization representing Barcelona’s Jews.

Jews of Catalonia, an anti-secessionist group, on Friday lauded the Madrid-based federation for its “important” message, as they called it on Twitter.

“The only representative organ of Jews in all of Spain has some out in favor of unity and against separatism,” the tweet read. “Kol HaKavod FCJE! The separatists represent only themselves.”

But a spokesperson for the pro-independence group “Jews for Independence” told JTA the FCJE does not represents the various opinions of Jews in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain on this issue.

“We welcome the birth of our Catalonian Republic. It is no longer a dream,” the spokesperson said.

The motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favor, 10 against and two abstentions, a result that caused Spanish shares and stock to fall sharply internationally, the Agence-Presse France reported.

Shortly before the Catalan vote, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged lawmakers in the federal parliament to give him the power to dismiss Catalonia’s secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont, his deputy and all regional ministers.

If approved, the measures under Article 155 of the constitution, designed to rein in rebels among Spain’s 17 regions, would enter into force on Saturday.

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Spain Dismisses Catalonia Government After Region Declares Independence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Independence supporters gathered outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday. Credit Jack Taylor/Getty Images

BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s leader fired the government of the rebellious Catalonia region Friday, dissolved the regional parliament and ordered new elections after Catalan lawmakers illegally declared an independent nation.

The showdown escalated the biggest political crisis in decades to hit Spain, which is just emerging from a prolonged economic malaise. Catalonia is a critical part of the economy in Spain, the fifth largest in Europe.

“We never wanted to reach this situation, never,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on television, announcing the emergency steps he was taking under the Constitution to crush Catalan independence.

Mr. Rajoy’s move capped a frenzied day of political maneuvering in Madrid, Spain’s capital, and Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where the long drive for independence — illegal under Spain’s Constitution — has now reached its fiercest level yet.

Whether the separatist emotion behind the independence declaration will now grow or fade could depend on how aggressively the central authorities in Madrid enforce the takeover in coming days.

Continue reading the main story

As of Friday night it was unclear whether separatist leaders — who hours earlier exulted at the independence declaration — would resist. The mood in the city of Barcelona was a mix of intense joy and subdued trepidation.

“We believe it is urgent to listen to Catalan citizens, to all of them, so that they can decide their future and nobody can act outside the law on their behalf,” Mr. Rajoy said.

The steps announced by Mr. Rajoy mean Spain will take direct control over one of the country’s autonomous regions for the first time since Spain embraced democracy under the 1978 Constitution.

At the end of what he called “a sad day” for Spaniards, Mr. Rajoy assured them that he had the means to end a secessionist threat that, he said, was based on “lies, frauds and impositions.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain spoke after the Senate voted on Friday to grant him powers to take direct administrative control over the Catalan region. CreditJuanjo Martin/European Pressphoto Agency

He removed the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and his cabinet, as well the director general of the autonomous police force. He also ordered Catalonia’s representative offices overseas to close.

In ordering the Catalan Parliament to dissolve, Mr. Rajoy said new regional elections would be held Dec. 21.

Pending the elections and formation of a new regional government, Mr. Rajoy said, Catalonia’s administration would be run from Madrid.

Fueled by a distinct language and culture as well as economic grievances, aspirations for a separate state have percolated for generations in Catalonia before boiling over this month.

The events on Friday, coming in the chaotic aftermath of an Oct. 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, were greeted variously with anger, concern and elation on both sides, with the prospect of even more volatile confrontations in days ahead as the Spanish government moves to put the steps in place.

Spain’s attorney general may now seek to detain Catalan leaders on grounds of rebellion.

Such moves were likely to turn the boisterous separatist street celebrations that greeted the independence declaration on Friday into mass protests, with one Catalan labor union already calling on workers to stage a general strike on Monday.

During the debate in the regional parliament that preceded their vote for independence, Catalan lawmakers traded accusations and in turn described the occasion as “historic” and “happy,” or else “tragic” and a violation of Spain’s Constitution — perhaps the only thing on which both sides agreed.

Within an hour, the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted 214 to 47 to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, granting Mr. Rajoy extraordinary powers to seize direct administrative control over the region and remove secessionist politicians, including Mr. Puigdemont, the Catalan leader.

In a speech on Friday before the vote, Mr. Rajoy had said he had “no alternative” because Mr. Puigdemont and his separatist government had pursued an illegal and unilateral path that was “contrary to the normal behavior in any democratic country like ours.”

Photo

Separatist lawmakers in the Catalan Parliament applauded after the resolution passed. Those opposed to independence walked out in protest before the vote. CreditDavid Ramos/Getty Images

Undeterred by Mr. Rajoys threat, and after a bitter debate, separatists in the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution to create “a Catalan republic as an independent state.”

Most of the opponents to independence walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote, which the remaining lawmakers held via secret ballot, aware that declaring independence from Spain could risk arrest.

The final tally was 70 in favor, 10 against, and two blank votes.

Since the referendum , Mr. Puigdemont had been squeezed in a tightening vise of his own creation, and seemed at times to contradict his own declarations as he squirmed for a way out.

Mr. Puigdemont, a former small city mayor, was trapped between the demands from Catalan hard-liners to declare independence on one side, and, on the other side, the stiffening response from a Rajoy government determined to preserve the nation’s Constitution and territorial integrity.

Despite pleas for mediation, he and his region’s independence bid were shunned and condemned, not only by Madrid but also by European Union officials wary of encouraging similarly minded secessionist movements around the Continent.

European leaders made clear on Friday that they would not be recognizing Catalan independence and would support Mr. Rajoy, as leader of one of the bloc’s most important member states. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote in a Twitter post that “nothing changes” and “Spain remains our only interlocutor.”

Searching for a compromise, Mr. Puigdemont came close on Thursday to calling early regional elections in hopes of forestalling the drastic measures approved by the Spanish Senate on Friday and preserving Catalonia’s autonomy.

But Madrid would offer no guarantee that it would not clamp down on the region, Mr. Puigdemont said, as he immediately faced a revolt in his own ranks from secessionist hard-liners who called him a traitor.

After hours of wavering on Thursday, he relented and threw the decision on independence to Catalan lawmakers, who took the fateful plunge on Friday.

Catalonia

Catch up here on the referendum and its fallout.

  • Catalonia voted on independence despite opposition from Spain’s government. What are the origins of the secessionist movement, and what has happened since the vote?

Addressing the Catalan Parliament in Spanish, Carlos Carrizosa, a lawmaker from Ciudadanos, a party that opposes secession, told Mr. Puigdemont and separatist lawmakers that, far from creating a new Catalan republic, “you will go down in history for having fractured Catalonia and for sinking the institutions of Catalonia.”

In front of the assembly, he tore apart a copy of the independence resolution. “Your job is not to promise unrealizable dreams but to improve the daily lives of people,” he said.

Before the independence vote, Marta Rovira, a separatist lawmaker, told the assembly that “today we start on a new path” to build “a better country.” She added, “We are creating a country free of repression.”

Catalan lawmakers who voted for independence could face prosecution for sedition, or even rebellion.

Marta Ribas, a Catalan lawmaker, said that Madrid’s use of Article 155 was unjustified, but also argued that “it’s a mistake to respond to one outrageous act with another outrageous act.”

She added, “A declaration of independence won’t protect us from the 155, quite the contrary.”

In the streets outside the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona, not far from a boisterous pro-independence rally, a few Catalans quietly expressed similar frustrations.

The Oct. 1 referendum did not give the Catalan government the legitimacy to vote to secede, said Federico Escolar, 53, a cafe owner.

“Most of the people who would have voted no did not participate,” Mr. Escolar said, while smoking a cigarette outside his cafe. “It was not a proper referendum. It was illegal.”

Walking into a nearby subway station, Cristina Juana, a 38-year-old social worker, agreed.

“Neither Puigdemont nor the Catalan government knows exactly what the Catalan people’s opinion is,” Ms. Juana said.

Before the Catalan Parliament’s vote for independence on Friday, large crowds had gathered outside in anticipation of what they hoped would be a historic day for Catalonia.

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Many were draped in flags as they watched the parliamentary debate on two large screens, cheering during speeches by pro-independence lawmakers and hissing those of their opponents. When proceedings hit a lull, the crowds cycled through a series of pro-independence chants.

“Spanish occupiers!” was one, a reference to the national police officers who tried to stop the Oct. 1 referendum by force. “Leave Catalonia!”

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