Friday Film: Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War

Plan Colombia: Cashing in on the Drug War (2003) is a documentary about the the drug trade in Colombia and the US efforts to combat the problem. It strongly critiques the ineffectual approach that the US has taken under the so-called ‘Plan Colombia.’ I have written before about how the United States needs to reconsider its appraoch to the war on drugs, and when I first watched it a number of years ago it opened my eyes to the continuing destructive behavior of the US in Latin America, that many believe is a thing of the past. Even now the US is pursuing similar policies across the Andean region.

For more information see IMDb.

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Morales Backs Down on Sanitary Law

Source: infolatam

Evo Morales has announced that he is suspending a decree that was intended to increase the working day of doctors and health professionals to more than 8 hours. The suspension of the decree is in response to an indefinite strike by health workers. Bolivia’s largest union, La Central Obrera Boliviana, had also planned a strike against the degree for next weekend. The strike was also intended to draw attention to the perilous state of the country’s hospitals, the lack of plans to increase health care provision in line with population growth, and the continuing shortages of supplies and medicines.

This is not the first time that Morales has stepped back from a policy in response to huge protests. In January of last year he retracted a proposed 70% rise in petrol prices after it provoked huge protests. Morales has been successful in tackling some of Bolivia’s major problems. Poverty has decreased, the budget is balanced, and inflation is under control, but if Bolivia is to truly make strides towards becoming a modern country then Morales will need to find some cojones and implement his policies with a little more conviction.



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Argentinian Releases Olympic Propaganda

Over the last few days there has been some controversy over an advert that the Argentinian government has put out on national television to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands/Malvinas war. The advert is also strangely promoting the Argentinian olympic team at the same time.

See the advert here:

I am not usually a fan of using loaded words such as propaganda, but I feel that in this case it is justified because of the nature of the content of this advert. While I definitely sympathise with the issue, this kind of trite nationalism turns my stomach. How this type of action will help in Kirchner’s fight to regain the islands, I have no idea. I would think that her constant bashing on about the issue will only raise expectations in Argentina, and they are expectations that she has no realistic chance of fulfuling.

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Friday Film: The War on Democracy

The War on Democracy (2007) is a documentary directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger about the negative impact that US involvement in Latin America has had on the region. It documents not only past but recent US intervention, and demonstrates the human cost of US actions. There is no doubt that John Pilger has made some great documentaries about Latin America, and especially US involvement in the region, but I am still not quite sure what to think about him. Whether you agree with him or not, the film makes for fascinating viewing.

Full film available here:

The film is also available on google video. For more information see John Pilger’s website and the film’s page on IMDb.

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Morales Expropriates Electricity: Evo Shows Kirchner How It’s Done

Evo Morales announces expropriation of TED
Source; La Razón

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that he was nationalising Transportadora de Electridad (TED) owned by the Spanish company Red Eléctrica Española (REE). Certain new sources, such as El País, have made a direct comparison between Morales’ actions and the expropriation of YPF a few weeks ago. There are, however, important differences between the two.

First, Morales used the same justification as Kirchner: that the Spanish company had not invested enough in Bolivia. ‘This company was profitable, but there was almost no capitalisation, almost no investment. In 17 years they had only invested $81 million,’ he said. Whereas Kircher’s claim that Repsol had not invested enough is difficult to sustain, Morales’ statement seems much more credible. Second, the tone that Morales used was much less aggressive than Kirchner’s. In his original announcement he said that he would be negotiating with REE to ensure that an agreement will be reached. Kirchner’s aggressive rhetoric and the poorly managed expropriation has caused significant tension between Argentina and Spain, and now Spain wants to impose economic sanctions. Third, Bolivia has the necessary expertise and capital to run and expand the country’s electricity network; the country does not require large quantities of foreign investment to ensure a good supply of electricity. On the other hand, the Argentinian government, by deterring foreign investment, has jeopardised the country’s future ability to fully exploit its reserves of shale oil and gas.

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Chávez Reduces Working Week From 44 to 40 Hours

Chávez announcing new labour regulations
Source: El Universal

The new labour law that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced today will reduce the working week for Venezuelans from 44 hours to 40 hours, among other measures. Chávez says that companies will have up to one year to comply with the new measures. The improvement of labour conditions is an obvious priority for Chávez as part of his vision of ‘Socialism of the 21st Century.’ Labour regulation across Latin America is generally weak, leaving workers open to abuse and some of the highest working hours in the world. With the Venezuelan economy struggling, however, now might not have been the best moment to impose new regulations.



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Proceso Journalist Murdered in Veracruz

Regina Martínez

The Mexican journalist Regina Martínez, a regular contributor to the Mexican magazine Proceso, has been found dead this weekend. According to the state of Verzcruz, where she lived, it appears that she suffered a violent death with signs of a beating, and eventual death by stangulation. Martínez dedicated more than thirty years to investigating drugs trafficking in Mexico and its links to central and local government officials. In the past two years Veracruz has become a battle ground between drugs cartels fighting for the ports on the Gulf coast. Martínez is the fourth journalist killed in the state  in the past 18 months. Reporters Without Borders now estimate that more than 80 journalsits have been murdered since 2000, with a further 14 disappeared. The death of journalists in Mexico is especially worrying as magazines such as Proceso offer some of the only quality reporting in Mexico, and play an important role in bringing the state to account.

Take a look at the Proceso website to keep up to date with all things Mexican.


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Second March by Indigenous Groups Against Highway in Bolivia

Protesters on the first march in August 2011
Source: AP

Yesterday 300 members of various indigenous groups in Bolivia started a second march to the Bolivian capital La Paz to protest against a proposed highway that would cross a protected area. The marchers all come from the area of the Tipnis national reserve, located 600 kilometres from La Paz in the Bolivian Amazon. The first march, which started last summer, was a disaster for Evo Morales’ government. Morales chose to repress the march using police forces, which led to violent clashes. His decision led to widespread protest across the country and the resignation of two government ministers. In response to the violence,  the Central Obrera Boliviana, the largest trade union organisation in Bolivia called a general strike.

Under mounting pressure, the government canceled the project. It appeared that the march, despite the bloodshed, had been a success. After a few months, however, and several rallies supporting the project, the government rescinded on its promise and restarted the construction. The second march is significantly smaller than the first, with only 300 participants compared to 1,500 before, but it still has the possibility of causing major problems for Morales.


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Friday Film: Dancing with the Devil

Dancing with the Devil (2009) is a documentary directed by Jon Blair. It is a story about crime in Rio de Janeiro told through the lives of three men: Spiderman, a 28 year old leader of a drug cartel, Leonardo Torres, a police inspector, and Pastor Dione, an evangelical preacher. By approaching the theme from three angles Blair gives us a well rounded insight into the situation.The warped mentality not only of Spiderman, but also of the police inspectors, speaks much about the continuing problems of tackling the drugs problem in large urban centres. The views of Pastor Dione, which often border on hyperbole, add another interesting take on the situation, and also provide insights into the rise of evangelical Christianity in Brazil. Despite the fact that the film is now a little out of date, as the police in Rio have started implementing a pacification programme, it is still well worth watching.

Film trailer:

The film is a little difficult to find on the internet, but a little bit of perseverance will pay off. For more information see the film’s official website, and IMDb.

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Chávez Accuses Opposition of Links to Drugs Trafficking

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles
Source: Gulf Daily

The Venezuelan government has announced that it has dismantled a network that was involved in laundering drugs money, and that several prominent members of the political opposition are implicated. According to the Minister of Justice Tareck El Aissami the group handled approximately $10 million and set up a number of front organisations to hide their activities. He said that investigators have suspicions that Enrique Salas, the governor of Carabobo, and Morel Rodríguez, the governor of Nueva Esparta, were involved in the network

Although it is difficult to know whether or not the accusations have any grounding, they come at a point when domestic criticism of the Chávez government is increasing. Recently Chávez has spent more time in Havana than in Caracas due to the treatment he is receiving for cancer. Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate for president, has criticised him for ruling the country through his twitter account. Accusations of government involvement in drugs trafficking and manipulation of the judicial system made by former judge Eladio Aponte last week also called into question the honesty of the Chávez administration. The whole thing smells suspiciously like an attempt to discredit the opposition before the upcoming presidential elections in October.




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