Articles Latin America and the Caribbean

  • 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.

  • Hugo Chavez & The “New Democracy”

    In the working-class neighbourhood of Catia on Caracas’ west side, the streets are strewn with refuse; even the public spaces, the plazas and street-shopping laneways are neglected. Caracas’ west side is part of the sprawling district of Sucre, one of Latin America’s largest and one of Caracas’ oldest barrios. At a meeting called by local activists last January, Catia residents complained that the Sucre district council wasn’t doing its job, that the head of the district council was inept and wholly corrupt. Not only was the council neglecting garbage collection and other community services for which they were responsible, they were extorting small businesses in the area.

  • “War on Terror” Has Latin America Indigenous People in its Sights

    The “War on Terror,” identified in Amnesty International’s 2004 annual report as a new source of human-rights abuses, is threatening to expand to Latin America, targeting indigenous movements that are demanding autonomy and protesting free-market policies and “neoliberal” globalization.

    In the United States, “there is a perception of indigenous activists as destabilizing elements and terrorists,” and their demands and activism have begun to be cast in a criminal light, said lawyer José Aylwin, of the Institute of Indigenous Studies at the University of the Border in Temuco (670 kilometres south of the Chilean capital).

Page 13 of 14