Latin America’s left at the crossroads

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Income inequality rose under Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Gallo/Getty)

William I. Robinson writes at Al Jazeera on the subject of the Pink Tide–“the ambiguous turn to the left in recent years in several Latin American countries”:

The Pink Tide governments have been “leftist” insofar as they have introduced limited wealth redistribution, restored a minimal role for the state in regulating accumulation, and administered government expansion in more inclusionary ways. When we cut through the rhetoric, however, a number of these governments – such as the Socialists in Chile, Kirchner in Argentina, and Lula in Brazil – were able to push forward capitalist globalisation with greater credibility than their orthodox neo-liberal predecessors, and, in doing so, to deradicalise dissent and demobilise social movements. What emerged was an elected progressive bloc in the region committed to mild redistributive programmes respectful of prevailing property relations and unwilling or simply unable to challenge the global capitalist order – a new, post-neo-liberal form of the national state tied to the larger institutional networks of global capitalism.

In many Pink Tide countries there has been no significant change in the unequal distribution of income or wealth, and indeed, inequality may actually be increasing.  Nor has there been any shift in basic property and class relations despite changes in political blocs, despite discourse favouring the popular classes, and despite mildly reformist or social welfare measures. In Argentina, for instance, the percentage of national income going to labour (through wages) and to the unemployed and pensioners (through social welfare subsidies and pensions) dropped from 32.5 per cent in 2001, before the crisis exploded, to 26.7 per cent in 2005. In Kirchner’s own words, the aim of his policies was to reconstruct capitalism in the country, “a capitalism in which the state plays an intelligent role, regulating, controlling, and mitigating where necessary problems that the market does not solve”. Despite its social programmes, the Kirchner administration worked to demobilise and divide Argentina’s social movements.
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The Andean Connection: Tracking the Drug War’s Coca Leaves and Failed Policies

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

(Credit: Flickr/whertha)

by Benjamin Dangl

This article first appeared in The Indypendent.

Cocaine, the drug fueling the trade that’s left thousands dead in Mexico and Central America since 2007 and which 1.4 million Americans are addicted to, originates with two species of the coca plant grown in the South American Andes. Ninety percent of the U.S. market for cocaine is fed by Colombia, with the rest largely provided by Peru and Bolivia.

An estimated 310 to 350 tons of refined cocaine were trafficked out of Colombia last year, enough to make a rail of nose candy that would encircle the earth twice. Along with exporting cocaine northward, Colombia has become a laboratory for failed drug war policies that are finding their way to Central America and Mexico.

In July 2000 President Bill Clinton signed Plan Colombia (see note following article for more information) into law, initiating the anti-drug-producing and trafficking operation that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $7.3 billion to date. U.S. military bases have been established in Colombia under the plan, as have extensive air patrols, pesticide spraying and surveillance. Because of the violence, some 2.5 million Colombians have been displaced.

“The lessons of Colombia are being ignored in many ways. You’ll have mainstream analysts saying Colombia is the model to win the drug war. If Colombia is winning then what are the Colombians trafficking?” drug war expert Sanho Tree, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Indypendent.

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Learning From Latin American Social Movements: Introduction to Dancing with Dynamite Book

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Benjamin Dangl’s new book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, (October, 2010, AK Press), recommended by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman:

Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States.  Read this much-needed book.”

***

The motorcycle thundered off the highway onto a jungle road of loose red dirt framed by trees, families lounging in front of their farmhouses, and small herds of disinterested cows. We pulled up to a dusty store to buy food for our stay in the rural community of Oñondivepá, Paraguay, and asked the woman behind the counter what was available. She nodded her head, picked up a saw, and began hacking away at a large slab of beef. We strapped the meat and a box of beer on to the back of the motorcycle and roared off down the road.

A volleyball game was going on when we arrived in the area where landless activist Pedro Caballero lived. His wife offered us fresh oranges while his children ran around in the dirt, playing with some wide-eyed kittens. The sun had set, so Caballero’s wife lifted a light bulb attached to a metal wire onto an exposed electric line above the house, casting light on our small gathering of neighbors. Suddenly, the dogs jumped to action, joining in a barking chorus, and lunged toward the edge of the woods. They had found a poisonous snake, a common cause of death in this small community far from hospitals.

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A World Without Water

October 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

From El Alto to Cochabamba, Detroit to Dar Es Salaam, A World Without Water documents the human costs of water privatisation and the systemic denial of access to safe drinking water through its commodification. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.1 billion people has no access to any type of improved drinking source of water, 2.6 billion people lack even a simple ‘improved’ latrine, and, as a direct consequence, 1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (90% of these are children under 5).

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Pachamama and Progress: Conflicting Visions for Latin America’s Future

August 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Miners march in Potosí, Bolivia (Photo: Telesur)

by Benjamin Dangl

Miners in Potosí, Bolivia set off sticks of dynamite as cold winter winds zipped through the city, passing street barricades, protests, hunger strikers and an occupied electrical plant. These actions took place place from late July to mid-August against the perceived neglect of the Evo Morales administration toward the impoverished Potosí region.

This showdown in Bolivia is similar to conflicts across Latin America between the promises of left-leaning governments, the needs of the people and the finite resources of Pachamama (Mother Earth).

Diverse social organizations, miners, unions, students, local residents, and even the city’s soccer team, united in the protest in late July. The mobilizations shut down the city and many mining operations. Residents criticized what they saw as the government’s lack of attention, funding and development projects for Potosí, the poorest department in the country.

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Stone, Ali, and Weisbrot respond to attack from the New York Times’ Larry Rohter

June 28, 2010 § 4 Comments

The following letter was sent to The New York Times by Oliver Stone, Mark Weisbrot and Tariq Ali in response to a grossly distorted account of their new film ‘South of the Border‘ by Larry Rohter, a one time backer of the 2002 coup attempt.

Larry Rohter attacks our film, “South of the Border,” for “mistakes, misstatements and missing details.”  But a close examination of the details reveals that the mistakes, misstatements, and missing details are his own, and that the film is factually accurate. We will document this for each one of his attacks. We then show that there is evidence of animus and conflict of interest, in his attempt to discredit the film. Finally, we ask that you consider the many factual errors in Rohter’s attacks, outlined below, and the pervasive evidence of animus and conflict of interest in his attempt to discredit the film; and we ask that The New York Times publish a full correction for these numerous mistakes.

1) Accusing the film of “misinformation,” Rohter writes that “A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia, flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes. . .” But the narration does not say that the flight is “mostly” over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true. (Source: Google Earth).

2) Also in the category of “misinformation,” Rohter writes “the United States does not ‘import more oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation,’ a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia during the period 2004-10.”

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Bolivia’s thirst for change

June 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

AlJazeeraEnglish — 23 June 2010 — People&Power investigates President Evo Morales’ alternative climate summit on the problems of global warming.

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