Tag Archives: latin america

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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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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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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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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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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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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El Papa, Cuba, and the First Easter in 50 Years

Havana's Cathedral during mass yesterday
Source: Raquel Pérez (via BBC)

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Cuba appears to have had only a minimal impact on the faith of Cubans. For the first time since the 1960s the Cuban state declared that Good Friday would be a national holiday, but Cubans appear to have taken the extra holiday as an opportunity to put their feet up rather than attend Church. In Havana’s Catedral fewer than two hundred people attended the Good Friday mass. As I wrote before, the Catholic Church faces very serious problems not just in Latin America, but all over the world. The Pope’s condemnation of the Cuban communist system would be a lot more valid if the Vatican were making reforms of its own. The most recent example of the Church’s inflexibility came just two days ago when the Pope firmly rejected calls from a group of Austrian priests to reconsider its attitudes toward the celibacy of priests and the question of female priests.



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Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Will Not Attend the Summit of the Americas

Source: Associated Press

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has announced today in a letter that he will not be participating the the Summit of the Americas, which is due to take place on 14th and 15th April in Colombia, because Cuba has not been invited. Correa commented that, ‘they talk about a lack of concensus, but we all know that it is about the veto of hegemonic powers, which is an intolerable situation in 21st century Latin America.’ Despite many promises and a good amount of posturing over the decades, he is the first head of state to make good on a promise not to attend an international summit in the Americas to which Cuba has not been invited.

The the Organization of American States (OAS) has had an active role in preventing Cuba from attending international summits in the Americas for some time now. The OAS says that it cannot invite Cuba because it does not meet OAS requirements for democratic governance. Those requirements, however, were initiated in 2001 specifically to exclude Cuba from inter-American decision making. Under huge US pressure the OAS expelled Cuba in 1962 for sponsoring military activity in other Latin American nations, and since then the US has consistently blocked proposals for Cuba’s reentry. That in the 21st century, Cuba can still be isolated in the hemisphere is a disgrace that all Latin American governments should be held accountable for.

For the first time a Latin American president has stood up and refused to attend a summit because of the absence of Cuba. Not only is that a reflection of the growing confidence of Latin American countries, but also an indication that US influence in the region is waning. Unfourtunately, Correa’s call  on the other key members of the ALBA grouping to do the same fell on deaf ears. Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have all confirmed that their presidents will be attending the summit. So much for the Bolivarian dream.

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