February 21, 2017

Book, Global Security Watch—Venezuela

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Global Security Watch—Venezuela
by Daniel Hellinger

This in-depth study provides a timely assessment of how the foreign, military, and security policies of Venezuela shape relations with the United States in the Chavez era.

The growing importance of Venezuela in the global oil market along with the controversial nature of its leadership provoke concern among some world powers—especially the United States, whose international policies have been heavily criticized by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. This critical look at American/Venezuelan relations presents perceptions held by each government of the other and examines the sources of tensions—and points of confluence—between the two countries.

Global Security Watch—Venezuela traces the political relations between the United States and Venezuela from the early roots based in Pan Americanism to the domestic and foreign policies of the Chavez regime, including petro-diplomacy. This book provides a serious examination of the allegations about Venezuelan involvement in the drug trade, terrorism, and intervention; the view that the unilateralism of the United States threatens world peace; and the future of relations between the two countries.

February 20, 2017

Political Report #1228 Chiquita Made a Killing From Colombia's Civil War. Will Their Victims Finally See Justice?

Workers wash bananas on a plantation in Magdalena, Colombia. (J. Stephen Conn / Flickr)

Political Report # 1228

Chiquita Made a Killing From Colombia's Civil War. Will Their Victims Finally See Justice?
Getting an interview with Anabel (not her real name) is not easy. In Colombia, witnessing paramilitary violence against your family generally means you keep quiet about it-it's too dangerous to speak about what you've seen. Anabel tells us, after an extended period of negotiation, to meet her at her place of work near the trendy El Poblado district of downtown Medellín. We are told we cannot name her: What she saw and the powerful people who are implicated mean her own life is still not safe.

Abstract, Everyday Crafting of the Bolivarian State Lower-level State Officials and Grassroots Activism in Venezuela

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Everyday Crafting of the Bolivarian State
Lower-level State Officials and Grassroots Activism in Venezuela
by Iselin Åsedotter Strønen

Venezuela’s communal councils are legally sanctioned organs for popular participation implemented mostly in poor communities since 2006. The promotores integrales, lower-level state employees who assist the communal councils in their everyday work, serve as mediators between state policies and community politics, and study of their roles and perspectives provides important insights into the complexities of implementing policies of popular participation and transforming state practices in the context of radical social change. While the cultural politics and knowledges of the popular sectors have become imprinted on the Venezuelan state, attempts to change the state in accordance with Bolivarian ideology are subject to intense contestation and struggle.

Exclusive, Has Ecuador stemmed South America’s receding pink tide?

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Has Ecuador stemmed South America’s receding pink tide?

by Marc Becker

In a nail-biting finish, it appears that Lenín Moreno has fallen just short of a first-round triumph in Sunday’s presidential election in Ecuador.

In order to avoid a runoff election, a candidate must either win a majority of the vote or 40 percent with a 10-point margin over the nearest contender.

Preliminary electoral results show Moreno ahead of his nearest rival Guillermo Lasso by about 10 points, but just shy of the required 40 percent of the total vote.

Moreno is the candidate for Alianza Pais (AP) of outgoing president Rafael Correa. After ten years in office, term limits prevented Correa from running again. The conservative banker and former finance minister Lasso ran as the candidate for an alliance between two rightwing parties, Creating Opportunities (CREO) and United Society More Action (SUMA).

Moreno finished stronger than many pre-election polls had indicated, with some showing him in the mid 30s. Recent polling, not only in Ecuador but across the hemisphere, has been notoriously unreliable.

A total of eight candidates were on Sunday’s ballot. Before Correa’s ascent to power in 2007, multi-party races meant that it was rare for the eventually winner to poll more than about a quarter of the vote in the first round. Correa won outright in his 2009 reelection campaign—the first time a candidate had achieved that feat since Ecuador’s return to civilian rule in 1979.

An open question now is what will happen in Ecuador’s April 2 runoff election.

February 17, 2017

Political Report # 1227 Deported Mothers, Separated From Their Children, Wait in Limbo at the Mexican Border

Leticia Orozco and Manuel Aguirre peer through the border at their children and grandchildren at Friendship Park in Tijuana on April 9. (Photo: Natalie Keyssar)

Political Report # 1227

Deported Mothers, Separated From Their Children, Wait in Limbo at the Mexican Border
When deported mother Yolanda Varona received a call from photojournalist Natalie Keyssar on Friday morning, her voice was quivering. Varona, a Mexican mother of two and leader of the Dreamers Moms of Tijuana, spoke clearly - and forcefully - about her feelings on Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall to fortify the border between the United States and Mexico. In an executive order signed Wednesday evening, President Trump called for the “immediate” construction of the barrier that has already escalated tensions between the two nations.

February 15, 2017

Political Report #1226 Unease in Colombia, as Old Enemies Become New Neighbors

Tierra Grata, a settlement in La Paz, Colombia, where former rebels have moved. This year, 7,000 across the country are to surrender their guns.  (Photo: Federico Rios Escobar for The New York Times)

Political Report # 1226

Unease in Colombia, as Old Enemies Become New Neighbors
By  Nicholas Casey, NY Times

LA PAZ, Colombia - The town’s name is Spanish for “peace.” The days to come will test how accurate that is.

After a half-century of war, Colombia’s rebels are disarming, preparing to enter civilian life under the peace accord signed last year. In this mountain town, a new settlement of former fighters, 80 strong and growing, is taking shape, one of many scattered across the country.

Gone are most of the uniforms, replaced with the kind of clothes worn by the townspeople who live nearby and watch warily. The tents and their wooden poles will be swept aside too, replaced with a small library, a community center, a store - a town in miniature, a steppingstone out of the jungle.

“We’ve spent 52 years in hammocks,” said the fighters’ commander, who still uses his nom de guerre, Aldemar Altamiranda. “It’s time we moved into tiny houses.”

February 13, 2017

Political Report #1225 Honduran politicians, U.S. aid implicated in killings of environmentalists

Honduran Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres speaks to a crowd in 2009. (Photo: Sandra Cuffe)

Political Report # 1225

Honduran politicians, U.S. aid implicated in killings of environmentalists
By Sandra Cuffe, Mongabay

Global Witness, a London-based NGO, published a report last month examining the involvement of government officials and foreign aid in violent conflicts over mining, hydroelectric, tourism, and palm oil projects in Honduras. The result of a two-year investigation, the report includes several case studies and a series of recommendations for the Honduran and US governments.

"We do an annual report to document the situation globally, and Honduras per capita has come out on top for the last few years. More than 120 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2010, so we wanted to investigate the reasons behind that," Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather told Mongabay.

February 11, 2017

Exclusive, What is at stake in Ecuador’s election?

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What is at stake in Ecuador’s election?

by Marc Becker

The last year has been demoralizing for the Latin American left.

In November 2015, Mauricio Macri won election as president of Argentina on an openly neoliberal economic platform, ending twelve years of leftist rule in Argentina. Several weeks later, voters flipped control of Venezuela’s national assembly to a strident anti-Chávez but politically incoherent opposition that demanded the recall of president Nicolás Maduro. In the midst of a trumped up sex scandal, in February 2016 Bolivia’s first Indigenous president Evo Morales lost a referendum that would have allowed him to run for re-election in 2019. In Brazil, after two terms under the popular president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff faced a politically motivated impeachment from a conservative legislature that removed her from office in August 2016 on questionable charges. Her vice president Michel Temer moved quickly to undo thirteen years of progressive Workers Party (PT) policies. After a successful first time in office, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet faced very low poll numbers during her second term. Former rightwing president Sebastián Piñera appeared positioned to return to office in 2018.

February 10, 2017

Political Report #1224 "Day of Terror": Munduruku Village Attacked by Brazil's Federal Police

Adenilson Krixi Mundurku's family watches in solemn grief as Mongabay journalists are told how he was killed by Brazil's Federal Police. Photo by Thais Borges 

Political Report # 1224

"Day of Terror": Munduruku Village Attacked by Brazil's Federal Police
The Tapajós River Basin lies at the heart of the Amazon, and at the heart of an exploding controversy: whether to build 40+ large dams, a railway, and highways, turning the Basin into a vast industrialized commodities export corridor; or to curb this development impulse and conserve one of the most biologically and culturally rich regions on the planet.

Those struggling to shape the Basin's fate hold conflicting opinions, but because the Tapajós is an isolated region, few of these views get aired in the media. Journalist Sue Branford and social scientist Mauricio Torres travelled there for Mongabay, and over coming weeks hope to shed some light on the heated debate that will shape the future of the Amazon.