Indigenous Groups Start to Collaborate Against Mega Projects

I read an interesting article today on the BBC about the way in which indigenous groups across Latin America are collaborating in order to share ideas about how to oppose projects that threaten their ways of life. The inter-ocean highway, a road that will run from the Atlantic coast through Brazil, Bolivia and Peru to the Pacific coast, has been especially important in prompting groups with common interests to cooperate. There is an interesting video about protests against the highway in Bolivia here. Various indigenous groups have meet at summits, and they are increasingly using the internet to share ideas and build links with one another. Groups have also shared ideas about how to oppose hydroelectric projects, which indigenous groups have opposed strongly in both Chile and Brazil.

The strengthening of indigenous groups can only be a good thing for democracies in Latin America that are still far from being truly representative. Their increased involvement in national and international communities should ensure that they are better represented and that their interests are properly considered by governments. However, if they truly want to be incorporated in the body politic (and some do not) then they must accept that their wishes have to be balanced against the need for better infrastructure in order to promote economic development.



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O Globo Reveals Brazilian Participation in Falklands/Malvinas War

Source: Fox

The Brazilian newspaper O Globo has revealed that Brazil actively supported the Argentinian military dictatorship during the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war, despite the fact that the Brazilian government has consistently denied that it took part in the conflict. The newspaper revealed that Brazil was involved in an operation to supply the military junta with large quantities of military hardware. Brazil’s role was to serve as a trafficking point for arms, most of which came from the Libyan capital Tripoli. The operation was organised by the Soviet Union in conjunction with the governments of Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Libya and Angola.

Brazil has been a strong supporter of Argentina’s claim over the islands in recent years, but it seems unlikely that Brazil would give Argentina similar support in a future conflict over the islands. Brazil has close links with Argentina and together they form the backbone of Mercosur, but Brazil is now fully inserted into the world economy, and has too much to lose by siding with an increasingly marginalised country.

There is more information here in Spanish, or here in English.

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Argentinian Government Begs Petrobras For Investment in YPF

After the severe backlash that followed the announcement of the nationalisation of YPF last Monday, the Argentinian government has asked that Petrobras – the energy company that is part owned by the Brazilian state – to invest more money in the Argentinian energy sector. The Argentinian planning minister Julio de Vido asked for the money while visiting the Brazilian capital Brasilia. He stated that ‘we are not asking that Petrobras replace Repsol,’ but that ‘we would like them to increase their participation in the sector.’ The Brazilian energy minister Edison Lobao said that that Petrobras ‘will invest as much as it can,’ but in actual fact the $500 million that it plans to invest this year is no higher than what it spent last year.

The agreement between the Argentinian government and Petrobras is an excellent sign for regional development. Latin American governments have traditionally relied on partnerships with North American and European companies to exploit their natural resources, but now Brazilian companies especially are starting to develop the financial muscle and know-how to make their own investments. Both Argentinian President Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner and her late husband found a close ally in former Brazilian President Lula, but the current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s attitude toward left-leaning governments in the hemisphere has been a little more luke-warm. Although the agreement is a promising sign of things to come, it is still only a sign, and is not the answer to Argentina’s energy problems.

North American and European oil companies and investors that have the necessary knowledge and capital are now very unlikely to make significant investments in Argentina, and the appeal to Petrobras appears to be an attempt to find alternative sources of investment. The fact of the matter is that to fully exploit its reserves of shale oil and gas Argentina needs huge amounts of investment, which Petrobras alone is not capable of providing.

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US Man Detained on US-Mexican Border With 268,000 Bullets

Picture of the back of the truck in Mexican customs

Mexican authorities have announced that they have detained a US-owned truck containing large quantities of ammunition close to Cuidad Juárez just as it crossed the US-Mexican border. Mexican authorities found the truck to contain more than 268,000 rounds of ammunition, mostly for automatic rifles. Although the driver, and the company that he works for, claim that he took the wrong truck at the depot in Texas, their story appears just a little implausible.

The story illustrates the extent to which companies and citizens of the United States are implicated in the violence which is occurring not just in Mexico but throughout the region. While it is widely known that most of the arms that drugs cartels use come from the United States, it is not often that it is demonstrated in such a clear and striking manner. Obama’s stance at the recent Summit of the Americas, however, shows clearly that the United States is still not ready to accept its share of the responsibility for drugs related violence in Latin America.

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Friday Film: Which Way Home?

Which Way Home? (2009) is a film directed by Rebecca Cammisa about Central American child migrants traveling through Mexico on top of freight trains. The film follows the stories of several children as they make the long and dangerous trip through central Mexico toward the border with the United States. The film is a fascinating insight into migration, people’s motivations for doing it, and the wider impact it has on families and on society. For more information about the film, see Bulldog Films, the production company, and IMDb.

I have not been able to find the full film available legally on the internet, but it is not difficult to find it with a quick google search. Here is the trailer for the film:

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Kirchner and YPF: Why She Was Wrong

Source: BBC

On 16th April Kirchner announced that the Argentinian government was taking control of 51% of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), and said that it would pay the compensation that it deemed to be approriate. Argentinian President Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner justified the move by accusing the Spanish company Repsol, who owned the majority of YPF, of failing to invest enough in domestic production. She framed the nationalisation in nationalistic and emotional terms, stating that her late husband Néstor Kirchner had ‘always dreamed of recovering YPF for the country.’ Although the nationalisation might buy Kirchner some cheap political points domestically, it is likely to make worse, rather than solve, the problems that Argentina faces.

The nationalisation of YPF was the wrong move for four reasons. First, Argentina does not have the expertise or the capacity to exploit the potentially huge reserves of oil and gas that have been discovered in the past few years. Argentina currently spends more than 7% of GDP on the importation of energy, a figure that is now unlikely to improve. Second, Argentina already struggles to get international credit as a result of the huge 2002 default, and the arbitrary and sudden nationalisation of a branch of a large multinational company is likely to make that harder. Third, the nationalisation comes at an especially bad time for the Spanish government; just this week Spanish debt rose to 430 basis points above German debt. As Spain leads European Union policy toward Latin America, Kirchner’s actions could have potentially severe consequences for Argentinian-EU trade. Fourth, the nationalisation of the postal service in 2003, water in 2006, and of Aerolíneas Argentinas in 2008, already discouraged foreign direct investment in the country, and the nationalisation of YPF is likely to be a further disincentive to investors. The Financial Times wrote that ‘Argentina can kiss goodbye being treated seriously again by investors for another generation.’

I support the Argentinian state’s right to take control of its natural resources, but I question the manner in which Kirchner chose to carry it out. If Argentina is to prosper then it must play by the rules of the international community; if it does not then it will be consigned to insignificance while other Latin American countries take their rightful place on the world stage.

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Injustice in Cuidad Juárez: The Death of Don Eligio Ibarra Amador

It has emerged that a Mexican man that denounced police corruption in Cuidad Juárez has been found dead. Last September, Don Eligio Ibarra Amador, a businessman of 62 years, denounced ten members of the Federal Police for attempting to extort him and threatening him with kidnap. After he filed his report, ten federal officers were detained, but on 12th April of this year, assailants entered his house, stabbed him and then set him on fire. The story is a tragic illustration of the situation that many Mexicans find themselves in; they are caught between the violence of the drugs cartels on one side, and the corruption and incompetence of the police forces on the other side.

I am a little bit out of the loop with the YPF story, but I will be writing about that tomorrow.


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ALBA Countries Threaten to Boycott Future Hemispheric Summits

The the Summit fo the Americas concluded today, the countries of the Alternativa para las Américas (ALBA) declared that they would not participate in future summits if Cuba was not invited. In a declaration they condemned the ‘unjustifiable and unsustainable exlcusion of Cuba.’ Before the start of the summit, there was some talk of an ALBA boycott, but finally only Ecuador decided to make good its promise and actually refused to attend. The promise that ALBA members will not participate in the future is just a first step; if they really want to have an impact they will have to follow through with actions. The United States is still the dominant power in the hemisphere, and it will take collective action to change its long entrenched attitude toward Cuba.

In other news, the pierogi continues to be excellent.


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Obama in Cartagena: No to Legalisation of Drugs

Addressing the possible legalisation of drugs at the Summit of the Americas today, American President Barack Obama has dashed the hopes of several Latin American presidents by declaring that the United States is firmly against moves to legalise drugs in the hemisphere. In a debate with Colombian President Juan Santos and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Obama commented that, ‘I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are doing more harm than good in certain places,’ although he continued by adding, ‘I personally, and my administration’s position is, that legalization is not the answer.’

This is a blow for leaders such as Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who has called for a drastic change in Latin America’s thinking on the drugs problem. At the summit he asked for a ‘serious dialogue in which we scientifically analyse what is happening with the war on drugs.’ Even Santos is considering the option of partial legalisation. Despite the fact that Obama claims that he is open to debate, it is clear that the US wants to maintain the status quo, and has even impeded srerious debate on the issue.

I am currently away in Poland at the moment so my posts during the next few days will be on the briefer side while I enjot copious amounts of pierogi.

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Friday Film: Cocalero

From today, I am going to be recommending a film about Latin America every Friday. The first film that I am recommending is Cocalero (2007), a film about the 2006 presidential campaign of Evo Morales in Bolivia. While the style of the film may not be for everyone, and it is at some points rather ambiguous, the hands-off approach of the director Alejandro Landes lets the subjects of the film speak for themselves.Set against the backdrop of the US-backed attempt to erradicate the Bolivian coca crop, it provides some fascinating insights in Morales and the people he wanted to represent, especially in the Bolivian countryside.

The film is also available on google video.


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