Articles Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Digging Up Canadian Dirt in Colombia

    Up a flight of stairs, behind double-enforced bulletproof glass and a large, silent bodyguard sits the office of Francisco Ramirez, a mining-policy researcher and president of a small Colombian trade union.

    Mining policy really isn’t sexy stuff and researching it usually isn’t a dangerous occupation, but some of Mr. Ramirez’s conclusions can mean life or death literally and figuratively. “Once they tried to kill me right here in this office,” said the researcher, who has survived seven assassination attempts.

  • Cuba After Castro

    Latin America and the Caribbean

    Unlike most Latin Americans, Cubans enjoy substantive rights. Despite the constant refrain, “no es facil,” Cubans don’t work as hard as their neighbours, nor do they suffer anxieties that they’ll have no access to health care or go homeless. Cuba’s transition team of experienced Communists can strengthen socialist institutions by opening up discussion on key decisions to its educated population.

  • Leonilda Zurita: Growing Coca in a Fight for Survival in Bolivia

    For centuries, coca has been used as a medicine in the Andes to relieve hunger, fatigue and sickness. Many Bolivians chew the small green leaf or drink it in tea on a daily basis. Much of the coca produced in Bolivia goes to this legal, controlled use. But the leaf is also a key ingredient in cocaine. The U.S. government has focused on coca eradication as a way to stem the flow of cocaine to the U.S. This war on drugs in Bolivia has resulted in violence, death, torture and trauma for the poor farmers who grow coca to survive. The U.S. government has directly funded this war, often facilitating human-rights violations and acting as a roadblock to peace in Bolivia. And the billions of dollars that Washington has pumped into this conflict have not diminished the amount of cocaine on the streets in the U.S.

  • Justice for Immigrant Workers!

    “All other sources of labour having been exhausted, the migrants were the last resource.” So reads the text accompanying the 1940-41 Migration series of paintings by Jacob Lawrence on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. More than 60 years later, the demand for migrant labour remains Canada’s “last resource” in efforts to maintain economic growth, although the overall context has shifted somewhat.

  • Latino Mercenaries for Bush

    n the faculty dining room at the California State University where I teach, a Mexican-American woman places the thin slice of turkey on the bread to make my sandwich. The stress lines that radiate down from her high cheekbones twitch as she tells me politely that she’s fine. One of her sons is in Afghanistan, she reports. The other will leave tomorrow for Iraq. “I pray every day,” she says, smearing the mayonnaise on the other slice of bread.

  • The Politics of Money

    Since the U.S.-backed overthrow of progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the severe level of political repression launched by the new government has left tens of thousands of Lavalas (Aristide’s political party) supporters the victims of rapes, incarcerations, firings and murders. One tragic aspect of this story is the extent to which Canadian federal government money has been able to buy the support of supposedly progressive organizations and individuals. Today they continue to align themselves with Canada’s brutal pro-coup policy.

  • America’s Other War

    Throughout the Cold War, Colombia was one of the largest recipients of U.S. counter-insurgency military aid and training. Counter-insurgency–CI for short–was designed to reorient recipient militaries away from a posture of external defence, toward one of “internal defence” against allegedly Soviet-aligned guerrillas. States that received U.S. CI military aid were told to police their own populations to make sure that “subversion” did not grow. Interestingly, when we examine the manuals used by U.S. military trainers to find out what they mean by subversion, we find some interesting clues as to why so many civilians died at the hands of Latin American “internal security states.”

  • Demanding More Than Democracy

    Over a million people filled the streets along the historic route of Mexican social protest on May Day–marching from the Angel of Independence to the Zocalo, and then filling the enormous square at the city’s centre. This was the largest demonstration in the city’s history, a great peaceful outpouring crying out, not just for formal democracy at the ballot box, but for more. The multitude demanded true choice in the country’s coming national elections, but they wanted more than that, too. People took to the streets to demand a basic change in their country’s direction.

  • Whatever Happened to Lula?

    The election of Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva raised great expectations on the centre-left. For most, his election heralded a new progressive epoch, which, while not revolutionary, defined the “end of neoliberalism.” Noted progressive religious figures like Leonardo Boff announced imminent “change,” which would challenge U.S. hegemony and lead to great popular participation. These hopes have not been realized.

    The rightward turn of the da Silva regime has spurred a range of explanations. In the first few months of his regime, da Silva loyalists argued that the orthodox neoliberal policies were “tactical moves” to stabilize the economy before turning to social reform. As da Silva’s policies, appointment alliances and legislation all converged into a logically coherent, orthodox neoliberal strategy, however, this explanation has gradually lost credibility. Among radical sectors of the Left, it has been replaced by a much more convincing, multi-causal explanation.

  • Peasant Movements in Latin America

    At the end of the seventies, many experts argued that peasant movements were an anachronistic, declining force for social transformation. These observers failed to see or understand the emergence of a new generation of modern peasant leaders based on mass organizations, capable of compensating for demographic changes through greater organization and through coalition building with urban-poor neighborhood organizations and trade unions. Peasant organizations have more than made up for quantitative losses in relative population with qualitative gains in organization, leadership, strategies and tactics.

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