Rebel Currents

South America has been transformed over the past decade by combative social movements and a new generation of left-leaning governments. This blog explores the challenges facing these governments and movements today, and the sometimes fraught and contradictory relations between them. It looks at major conflict arenas in countries such as Bolivia, where popular organizations are now confronting the government they brought to power, as well as local stories of communities in resistance throughout the region.

Bolivia: Elections in the Time of Evo
Sep 29, 2014
Bolivian president Evo Morales is expected to win the October 12 national elections by a landslide. But will Morales and the MAS party that emerges from the electoral process have the political will to deepen Bolivia's "process of change?" 
Elections Revive Bolivia’s Controversial TIPNIS Highway Plan
Sep 4, 2014
As Bolivia’s election campaign moves into full swing ahead of the scheduled October 12 vote, President Evo Morales’s controversial plan to build a highway through the TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park has resurfaced.
Bolivia’s Military and Police Protests: The “Children of Evo” Speak Out
Jul 25, 2014
In recent months, Bolivia has witnessed dramatic rebellions by rank-and-file military and police officers. Are these mobilizations a threat to the goverment of President Evo Morales, or an example of pragmatic protest politics at work during an election year?
Fuerza Valpo! Solidarity, Resistance, and Recovery In the Wake of Valparaíso Fires
May 30, 2014
Valparaíso civil society responded to April's massive fires with community-led relief and reconstruction initiatives. Can an urban catastrophe become an opportunity for progressive grassroots change?
Conflict Over New Bolivian Law Highlights Mining Sector Contradictions
May 9, 2014
The conflict over Bolivia's new mining law offers a window into the complexity and contradictions of the country's mining sector, as they play out during the run-up to October’s presidential election.
Bogotá Mayor’s Ouster Undermines Political Struggle for an Inclusive City
Apr 17, 2014
In a setback for local democracy, political rights, and the struggle for a sustainable, inclusive city, President Santos ratified the dismissal of leftist Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro, defying a ruling by the IACHR.
Are Brazil’s Dams to Blame for Record Floods in Bolivia?
Mar 31, 2014
Bolivia's Amazonian region is experiencing the most disastrous flooding of the past 100 years. Two Brazilian mega-dams on the Bolivian border may be contributing significantly to this tragedy.
Resurgent Chilean Social Movements Advance Cross-Border Solidarity
Mar 14, 2014
Even as they continue to shape the domestic political agenda, Chile's resurgent social movements are mobilizing to build cross-border solidarity, pressuring newly-elected President Michelle Bachelet to ally with other leftist governments in the region.
For Abortion Rights in Bolivia, A Modest Gain
Feb 27, 2014
Bolivia's highest court has rejected a constitutional challenge to the country's restrictive abortion law, while ruling that legal abortions no longer require a judge's consent. Both opponents and advocates of abortion rights have found reasons to celebrate.
Bolivia’s Child Workers Challenge New Rights Code
Feb 17, 2014
A proposed children’s rights law being considered by the Bolivian Congress is facing opposition from an unlikely source: a union representing the child workers themselves.
Rival Factions in Bolivia's CONAMAQ: Internal Conflict or Government Manipulation?
Feb 2, 2014
CONAMAQ, a federation of Bolivian highland indigenous peoples, has split into two parallel organizations after a bitter struggle. Is this the result of internal political conflict, or a government strategy to undermine opposition?
Elections in Chile: Confronting the Enduring Legacy of Dictatorship
Jan 16, 2014
Michelle Bachelet won a landslide victory in Chile’s December presidential run-off election, campaigning on a radical platform of educational, tax, and constitutional reform. But she now faces formidable obstacles, as Chile’s anti-democratic institutions and alienated electorate conspire to discourage systemic change.  
Bolivia: Presidente Evo’s Double Christmas Bonus
Jan 3, 2014
Bolivian workers received an unexpected gift this past Christmas: an extra payment equal to one month’s wages, mandated by President Evo Morales on November 20. Is this a redistributive measure to socialize profits, or an electoral strategy to shore up key voting sectors and finance the presidential campaign?
In Post-Election Honduras, Challenges and Opportunities for the Resistance
Dec 21, 2013
Newly-annointed President Juan Orlando Hernández is gearing up to lead the most authoritarian administration in Honduran history, under the cloud of a tainted election, a violence-plagued society, and a failed economy. Can Honduran social movements curtail the abuses of the regime through the combined efforts of a viable political opposition party and massive popular resistance?
Report from Honduras: How the Election Was Stolen
Dec 9, 2013
A report on the author's experience observing the election with the National Lawyers Guild. The electoral outcome, and recent indications of electoral "mischief," can only be understood in the context of Honduras's repressive political climate and systemic flaws in the electoral system.
Bolivia: Two Years After Chaparina, Still No Answers
Nov 21, 2013
On September 25, Bolivians marked the second anniversary of events at Chaparina, where national police brutally repressed indigenous marchers protesting the construction of a government-proposed highway through the TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park. Two years later, the central question—who ordered the attack?—has not been answered.  
Bolivia’s Black October, Ten Years Later
Nov 8, 2013
Last month, Bolivians marked the tenth anniversary of "Black October," a watershed moment in a popular uprising that culminated with the election of Evo Morales. Today, both Morales and popular sectors view the legacy of Black October through the lens of their own political agendas.
Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 2, Resistance, Past and Present
Oct 24, 2013
A photo essay from the week of September 11, 2013 in Chile, marking the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government by a U.S.-backed military coup (Part 2). 
Chile’s 40 Year Anniversary in Photos: Part 1, Recovering Memories
Oct 10, 2013
A photo essay from the week of September 11, 2013 in Chile, marking the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government by a US-backed military coup (Part 1 of 2).
In Chile, Remembering 9/11: Reflections
Sep 30, 2013
Reflections on events in Chile marking the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government, from an eyewitness to the commemoration.
Bolivia: Criminal Charges Against Indigenous Leaders, Revelations of Police Infiltration Reignite TIPNIS Conflict
Aug 27, 2013
Recent events in Bolivia have reignited continuing tensions over the proposed TIPNIS highway, as indigenous leaders face serious criminal charges and the Morales government has confirmed that undercover police agents infiltrated the landmark 2011 anti-highway mobilization.
Bolivia: Snowden Case Reignites Controversy Over Brazilian Asylum For Morales Foe
Aug 14, 2013
The saga of Edward Snowden and the “hijacking” of Evo Morales’s presidential jet continues to reverberate in Bolivia, where it has reignited a controversy over Brazil’s grant of political asylum to rightwing politician Roger Pinto.
Ben Kohl, Presente!
Aug 1, 2013
A tribute to Ben Kohl, Latin American scholar, activist, and NACLA contributor, by his colleagues.
The Detention of Evo Morales: A Defining Moment For Latin America?
Jul 11, 2013
Last week’s grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane in Europe, after U.S. officials apparently suspected whistle-blower Edward Snowden of being on board, caused an uproar in Latin America. If the U.S. government was seeking to intimidate Morales and other Latin American leaders who might consider harboring Snowden, its strategy has completely backfired.
Gas, Mother Earth, and the Plurinational State: Vice-President García Linera Embodies Bolivia’s Contradictions
Jun 21, 2013
The growing contradiction between Bolivia's international championship of environmental and indigenous rights, and its vigorous domestic pursuit of extractivist economic policies, is exemplified by Vice President Alvaro García Linera. He recently  addressed New York City's Left Forum on climate justice, after announcing his government's new plan to exploit oil and gas in its national parks. 
From Water Wars to Water Scarcity: Bolivia’s Cautionary Tale
Jun 5, 2013
Since the 2000 Water Wars, Bolivia has faced even greater water challenges: how to develop successful alternative models to water privatization, and how to combat water scarcity.
Industrializing Bolivia’s Gas in Bolivia, Not Brazil
May 23, 2013
As Bolivia inaugurates its first natural gas liquids separation plant, an important step towards the industrialization of gas, its obligations to Brazil—the major consumer of Bolivia's gas—pose a significant challenge.
Bolivia: USAID Out, Morales In For Re-Election Bid
May 11, 2013
Two recent events in Bolivia—President Evo Morales's expulsion of USAID, and a judicial ruling enabling Morales to run for a third presidential term—could have important implications for Bolivia's political future.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Road On Hold Until Extreme Poverty Eliminated
Apr 25, 2013
Bolivian President Evo Morales has put the controversial TIPNIS highway on hold for three years, until extreme poverty is eliminated in the TIPNIS. The surprise announcement comes amidst continuing conflict over the proposed road and ahead of the 2014 presidential elections where Morales is seeking a third term.
The Enduring Legacy of Bolivia’s Forgotten National Revolution
Apr 13, 2013
Bolivia's National Revolution of 1952, whose 61st anniversary occurred on April 9, has been relegated to the dustbin of history by successive Bolivian governments. Yet, this historic episode has profound and continuing relevance for events in Bolivia today.
Bolivia: The Unfinished Business of Land Reform
Mar 31, 2013
Recent data on land titling and redistribution in Bolivia provide a useful picture of what the Morales government has accomplished to date, as well as the unfinished business that lies ahead.
Chile’s “NO” Campaign: What the Movie Doesn't Tell Us
Mar 15, 2013
The Academy Award-nominated film “NO” re-opens a window on an inspirational moment in Latin American history, when Chileans used the ballot box to bring down the notorious dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite. Even more interesting is some of the history surrounding the event that the film leaves out, especially concerning the U.S. government's role in the "NO" campaign.
In the United States and Latin America, Hopes for Keeping Venezuela’s Oil Flowing
Mar 1, 2013
In the United States, Cuba, and elsewhere in Latin America, Venezuela's creative oil assistance programs are playing a vital role in economic stabilization and poverty reduction. Cutbacks in these programs, which may result from changing political and economic circumstances in Venezuela, would be devastating to many countries.
Economic Growth with More Equality: Learning From Bolivia
Feb 15, 2013
While widening inequality is helping to stifle the U.S. economy, in Bolivia domestic demand fueled by rising incomes and narrowing inequality is a driving force behind the country's newly found economic prosperity. The U.S. could learn a lot from Bolivia's example.
Gentrification in Cuba? The Contradictions of Old Havana
Jan 31, 2013
A unique experiment in urban planning and preservation has successfully revitalized Havana's decaying historic district while largely avoiding the displacement of existing residents. Will Cuba’s new laws that legalize the free market sale of housing lead to the gentrification of this dynamic neighborhood?
Battle of Reports Sustains Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict
Jan 18, 2013
While President Evo Morales decrees that Bolivia’s TIPNIS conflict is resolved, conflicting reports issued by the government and religious and human rights groups over the past few weeks have served to extend the controversy over the proposed highway that would bisect this indigenous territory and national park in the Amazon lowlands.
“A Dark Truth” Disrespects Latin American Struggles for Water Rights
Jan 4, 2013
The new eco-thriller, “A Dark Truth,” sensationalizes contemporary conflicts over water rights and environmental justice in Latin America, and disrespects the popular movements that are the main protagonists of those struggles.
Bolivia: End of the Road for TIPNIS Consulta
Dec 13, 2012
The Bolivian government’s controversial consultation process in the TIPNIS indigenous territory has concluded. Were the results a triumph for participatory democracy, or a foregone conclusion from a government determined to build a highway through the national park?
Divided Loyalties: Indigenous Communities Struggle Over Dual Residency
Nov 30, 2012
The tradition of dual residency—between city and countryside, or across national borders—has long been an important survival strategy, and a source of solidarity, for indigenous communities. But in places like Oaxaca, Mexico and the Bolivian highlands, the practice is now becoming a source of conflict, pitting residents, communities, and social sectors against one another in new forms of economic and political competition.
Earth First? Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Meets the Neo-Extractivist Economy
Nov 16, 2012
Bolivia's new Mother Earth law, enshrining the legal rights of nature, offers a potentially revolutionary tool for groups engaged in environmental conflicts. But critics say the law may help to legitimize the government's neo-extractivist economic model, under the guise of "integral development."
Bolivia Returns to the Global Bond Market
Nov 1, 2012
Bolivia's successful return to the international credit markets highlights the positive results of President Evo Morales's economic pragmatism, as well as some ironic impacts of the global financial crisis.
Bolivia: New Road Contract Ramps Up Stakes in TIPNIS Conflict
Oct 19, 2012
Bolivian President Evo Morales has signed a new construction contract for the first segment of a controversial highway that would bisect the TIPNIS Indigenous Territory and National Park, ramping up the stakes in the conflict as indigenous resistance and community divisions continue.
Renegotiating Nationalization in Bolivia’s Colquiri Mine
Oct 1, 2012
Rival mineworker factions have signed an agreement with the Bolivian government to end a violent dispute at the Colquiri tin mine. The conflict offers a window into the complexity of Bolivia’s mining sector, and the challenges faced by the government in balancing the competing expectations of salaried and cooperative mineworkers.
Against Impunity in Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: Ex-Defense Minister Speaks Out
Sep 13, 2012
Almost a year after resigning as Bolivia’s Defense Minister, Cecilia Chacón has broken her silence to question President Evo Morales’ appointment of ex-Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti as ambassador to the UN—an act which, she says, signifies impunity for those responsible for the police repression of lowland indigenous marchers last September 25 at Chaparina.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Consulta on Hold, Communities Reject Militarization
Aug 30, 2012
Five days past its official deadline and with less than half the communities polled, the consultation process on the Bolivian government’s proposed highway through the TIPNIS has ground to a halt amidst continuing controversy and local resistance. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting over the perceived militarization of the TIPNIS.
Women In the Forefront of Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict
Aug 16, 2012
In the ongoing struggle against the Bolivian government’s plan to build a highway through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), lowland indigenous women have been on the front lines. Their protagonism has sparked controversy in a society where patriarchal traditions and attitudes still run deep, despite important recent advances.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Communities Divided As Road Consultation Begins
Aug 5, 2012
As the Bolivian government launches its controversial consultation process on the TIPNIS highway, affected communities are responding with a creative range of tactics—some in support, and others in resistance—attesting to the deep divisions the process has created.
Guántanamera, Courtesy of the U.S.-Cuban Embargo
Jul 20, 2012
How the iconic Cuban song Guántanamera came to America 50 years ago, thanks to the U.S.-Cuban trade embargo and a progressive summer camp.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Return Home, Pledge to Resist Government Consulta
Jul 13, 2012
Following a two-week vigil in La Paz, frustrated lowland indigenous marchers protesting the Bolivian government's plan to build a highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) have decided to return to their native communities. The marchers have pledged to resist the government's proposed consultation process on the road.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Reach La Paz, Following Police Strike and Coup Allegations
Jul 2, 2012
The second national indigenous march to protest the Bolivian government's proposed highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) reached La Paz last week on the heels of a violent police strike. The government linked both the police and the TIPNIS protesters to a possible coup attempt.
Pacific Rim Ruling Threatens El Salvador’s National Sovereignty
Jun 8, 2012
A World Bank tribunal ruled last week that the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation can't sue the government of El Salvador under DR-CAFTA for denying its mining permit—but can proceed under El Salvador's own investment law using the same international tribunal. The case could undermine the growing campaign in El Salvador to legally ban metallic mining. 
Bolivia’s TIPNIS March in a Changing Political Environment
May 23, 2012
The second indigenous march in defense of Bolivia’s Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) is taking place in a changed political climate, featuring a more aggressive government strategy as well as a multitude of urban conflicts. Whether the success of the first march can be replicated under these conditions remains an open question.
Nationalization, Bolivian Style: Morales Seizes Electric Grid, Boosts Oil Incentives
May 10, 2012
On May 1, President Evo Morales seized control of Bolivia's electric grid from one Spanish company and inaugurated a $600 million gas processing plant with another. Two weeks earlier, he boosted incentives for crude oil production in Bolivia's "nationalized" oil and gas sector by 300%, demonstrating an increasingly pragmatic, investor-friendly approach to nationalization.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Protesters Launch National March, Seek Indigenous-Urban Alliance
Apr 27, 2012
After a week fraught with tension, the second march to protest the Bolivian government’s proposed highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) is set to depart April 27 from the Amazonian department of Beni, headed towards the highland capital of La Paz. The march seeks to build an indigenous-urban alliance in broad defense of indigenous, environmental, and human rights.
New Twist for TIPNIS Road: Bolivia Cancels Highway Contract
Apr 16, 2012
President Evo Morales's surprise announcement that Bolivia will revoke its contract with Brazilian company OAS to build the controversial TIPNIS highway has failed to defuse tensions, but could represent a paradigm shift in the TIPNIS controversy, with an opportunity to return to "ground zero."
Shifting Alliances in Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict
Apr 6, 2012
In the run-up to the May-June consulta that will decide the fate of the proposed highway through the TIPNIS Indigenous Territory and National Park, the Bolivian government is signing agreements with lowland indigenous groups and seeking to cancel its contract with Brazilian company OAS to build the TIPNIS road, causing a shift in political alliances around the TIPNIS conflict.  
Bolivia: TIPNIS Communities Plan National March and Resistance to Government Consulta
Mar 23, 2012
A majority of community authorities in the TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park have announced plans for another national march, beginning April 20, to protest the government-proposed highway that would bisect their ancestral homeland. They have pledged to simultaneously resist the government-sponsored consultation process.
Remembering Domitila: Making Bolivian History
Mar 15, 2012
A tribute to Domitila Barrios de Chungara, long-time Bolivian social activist, feminist, and mine union leader whose 1978 hunger strike is credited with bringing down the dictatorship and changing the course of Bolivian history.
TIPNIS Conflict Challenges Bolivian Workers Federation
Mar 2, 2012
The general assembly of the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) has declared its support for the upcoming march to defend the Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS), contradicting the executive committee's position announced just last week. The dispute highlights how growing internal divisions within the COB have been intensified by the TIPNIS conflict.
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: Letting the People Decide?
Feb 24, 2012
Lowland indigenous leaders say that the vast majority of their communities reject the Bolivian government’s proposed highway through the Isiboro-Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). So why do these communities oppose the "prior, free, and informed" consultation process to be carried out by the government, which should allow their views to prevail?
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict: In Search of an Alternative Highway Route
Feb 17, 2012
The new law requiring the Bolivian government to consult with indigenous groups in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) about the proposed highway that would bisect the reserve has revived a nagging question: why are alternative routes for the road not being considered?
Bolivian Congress Adopts Controversial TIPNIS Consultation Law
Feb 10, 2012
On February 9, Bolivia’s Plurinational Assembly passed a controversial new law mandating a consultation process for indigenous communities in the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), to redetermine the fate of a government-proposed highway that would bisect the reserve. The next chapter of the TIPNIS conflict is likely to be more contentious than ever.
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict Continues: Fanning the Flames of Discontent
Feb 3, 2012
Bolivia’s controversy over the recently-cancelled TIPNIS highway intensified this week, as the CONISUR counter-march arrived to La Paz. The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government renewed its campaign for a formal consulta process to redetermine the fate of the road, fanning the flames of popular discontent and conflict between indigenous sectors.
Mass Evictions at Pinheirinho: Favela Residents Confront Brazil’s Development Boom
Jan 27, 2012
Mass evictions and police violence at Pinheirinho, a favela on the outskirts of São Paolo, illustrate the collateral damage of Brazil's development boom in urban areas, while a conflict plays out between the state and federal government. President Dilma Rousseff's silence on the issue is deafening.
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Highway Redux
Jan 20, 2012
Less than three months ago, indigenous protesters forced Bolivian president Evo Morales to sign a law cancelling the government’s proposed highway through the Isiboro-Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS). Now, with a pro-highway counter-march and a legislative strategy to amend or bypass the law, the controversial road project may be on the verge of resurrection.
Bolivia’s New Faces of Justice
Jan 13, 2012
Fifty-six judges of Bolivia's top courts, elected in a historic but controversial popular vote last October, were sworn in by President Evo Morales on January 3. The new judges, 50% women and 40% indigenous, have changed the face of Bolivian justice, but confront significant challenges of legitimacy and obstacles to implementing judicial reform.
Oil Politics in Ecuador: Saving Yasuní, Without Chevron’s Blood Money
Jan 6, 2012
Two precedent-setting environmental challenges in Ecuador—an initiative to save the Yasuní rainforest, and a landmark lawsuit against Chevron Oil for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste—have recently returned to the headlines, with their fates potentially intertwined.
International Solidarity Bolsters El Salvador’s Anti-Mining Resistance
Dec 23, 2011
More than 240 U.S. and international labor, environmental, and civil society organizations are calling for the World Bank to dismiss a $77 million lawsuit brought by the Pacific Rim Mining Corporation against the government of El Salvador under DR-CAFTA, for failing to grant a permit for its proposed cyanide-leach gold mining operation.
Bolivia: Negotiating 'Untouchability' as the TIPNIS Conflict Continues
Dec 9, 2011
This week, Bolivian government officials and lowland indigenous leaders agreed on a new regulation defining the “untouchable” character of the TIPNIS national park and indigenous territory. But six weeks after pressure from indigenous protesters forced President Evo Morales to cancel the TIPNIS highway, the conflict shows no signs of abating.
A Political Victory for Bolivia
Nov 19, 2011
The new "framework agreement" restoring diplomatic ties between Bolivia and the United States represents a significant political achievement for Bolivia, as well as a victory for Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca that could help to strengthen Bolivia's "process of change."
Bolivia: TIPNIS 'Untouchable' But Still Controversial
Nov 11, 2011
In October, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a new law banning construction of the controversial TIPNIS highway. The law is now provoking a new round of conflicts between lowland indigenous groups and the Bolivian government, over what it means for the reserve to be declared an "untouchable" ecological zone.
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Road Cancelled But Deeper Conflicts Remain Unresolved
Oct 28, 2011
A new law signed by President Evo Morales has officially cancelled the controversial TIPNIS highway, bowing to demands of  indigenous protesters after their 360-mile cross-country march. But the fractures in Morales’ political base and divisions among Bolivia’s social movements triggered by the TIPNIS conflict will be more difficult to resolve.
TIPNIS Marchers, Bolivian Voters Send Wake-Up Call to Evo Morales
Oct 20, 2011
This week, two historic events took place in Bolivia: the arrival in La Paz of indigenous marchers protesting the TIPNIS highway, and the country's first-ever popular judicial elections. Both sent a wake-up call to President Evo Morales.
Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict Moves to La Paz
Oct 14, 2011
This week the focus of Bolivia’s TIPNIS conflict shifted to La Paz, with passage of a new law by the Bolivian Congress, massive demonstrations in support of President Evo Morales, and preparations for Sunday’s judicial elections, ahead of the much-anticipated arrival of the indigenous march early next week.
Bolivia: Exploiting the TIPNIS Conflict
Oct 7, 2011
A recent protest in Washington, D.C. against the TIPNIS highway in Bolivia serves as a reminder of how conservative forces are exploiting the TIPNIS conflict to undermine President Evo Morales’s leftist government. For the most part, though, the anti-highway movement is not so much against the government as it is for a recovery and revitalization of Bolivia’s “process of change.”
We Are All TIPNIS'
Sep 30, 2011
In the wake of Sunday’s brutal repression of indigenous marchers against the TIPNIS highway, the past few days have brought renewed popular mobilizations, a few revelations, and more mixed messages from the Bolivian government.
Police Attack on TIPNIS Marchers Roils Bolivia
Sep 28, 2011
Sunday’s brutal repression by federal police of lowland indigenous marchers protesting the TIPNIS highway has sparked widespread public outrage in Bolivia, while the MAS government’s response raises more questions than answers. With conservative opponents of Evo Morales also seeking to exploit the crisis, it's a critical moment for Bolivia's process of change.
Bolivia’s TIPNIS Conflict Moves Beyond Regional Borders
Sep 23, 2011
While President Evo Morales was busy defending the rights of Mother Earth at the United Nations this week, Bolivia’s TIPNIS conflict escalated beyond the regional boundaries of Beni and Cochabamba into the national and international arena.
Bolivia’s 9/11: The Pando Massacre and the TIPNIS Conflict
Sep 18, 2011
On September 11, Bolivians observed the third anniversary of the Pando massacre, a brutal attack on indigenous peasants and students in the Amazonian lowlands and the most deadly act of political violence in the country since 2003. The tragic event marked a turning point in Bolivia’s recent history, and has special relevance today for the escalating conflict over the TIPNIS highway.
Bolivia: A Visit From Lula as TIPNIS Negotiations Falter
Sep 2, 2011
Negotiations between the Bolivian government and indigenous groups protesting the proposed TIPNIS highway broke down before getting off the ground this week, while a visit from Brazil’s ex-president Lula served as a reminder of the larger geopolitical interests involved. Brazil has a major stake in the road's construction, but it also needs a stable political environment in Bolivia to advance its overall economic agenda.
Bolivia: TIPNIS Marchers Face Accusations and Negotiations
Aug 26, 2011
After a week of polarizing rhetoric and escalating conflict, the government and indigenous groups protesting construction of the TIPNIS highway have begun negotiations. While the outcome of the process is uncertain, it’s even less clear whether the fractured political alliance between President Evo Morales and the indigenous groups that helped bring him to power can be repaired.
Bolivia: A Week At the Barricades
Aug 19, 2011
It’s been a busy week in Bolivia, with major mobilizations by indigenous peoples in the Amazon marching against the TIPNIS highway, and by civic groups in Potosí and neighborhood organizations in El Alto who are demanding more, not less, development.
Bolivia: Indigenous Groups to March Against TIPNIS Highway
Aug 12, 2011
Next Monday, representatives of three indigenous groups and their supporters will begin a 375-mile trek from the Bolivian lowlands to the capital of La Paz, to protest the government’s plan to build a highway through their ancestral homeland. The march opens a new chapter in the increasingly conflictive relationship between leftist president Evo Morales and the social movements that brought him to power, and could be another defining moment for the MAS government.
A Vote For Democracy in El Salvador
Aug 5, 2011
Last week, after a wave of popular protests, the Salvadoran legislative assembly voted to repeal controversial Decree 743 which required the country’s highest judicial body to  reach decisions by unanimous consent. The action ended two months of political turmoil, averted a constitutional crisis, and represents a victory for civil society that strengthens the role of democratic institutions in El Salvador.
Peru’s Mining Conflicts: Ollanta Humala’s Ticking Time Bomb
Jul 29, 2011
Left-leaning president Ollanta Humala faces the formidable task of resolving a growing number of mining conflicts, especially in the Puno region where widespread protests shut down the economy last spring. While lame duck president Alan García made numerous concessions to the protesters, the conflicts are far from resolved and could become the defining challenge of the new administration.
El Salvador: Social Programs Bolster Support for Funes Government
Jul 22, 2011
San Salvador polls show a sharp drop in President Mauricio Funes’s approval ratings over the past several months. But on a recent visit to San José Las Flores in Chalatenango, members of the Cambridge, MA Sister City delegation were impressed by the strong support Funes continues to receive in the countryside, and the visible accomplishments of the government’s new initiatives in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure development.
Facundo Cabral – A Musical Tribute
Jul 15, 2011
A musical tribute to Facundo Cabral, Argentinian political protest singer, songwriter, and novelist assassinated in Guatemala last week, composed and sung by Chilean-American folksinger Sergio Reyes.
El Salvador: Funes Opposes Mining, But Legal Ban Uncertain
Jul 8, 2011
President Mauricio Funes reaffirmed last week that no mining projects will be permitted in El Salvador during his presidency, and condemned the recent murders of anti-mining activists.  But anti-mining organizations want a permanent legal ban on mining activity, and are critical of the government’s ongoing study to evaluate the costs and benefits of mining. At a recent meeting with international solidarity activists, Environmental Minister Herman Rosa Chávez offered insight into the government’s position.
In Bolivia, Social Protest Is a Way of Life
Jun 17, 2011
Over the past 40 years, Bolivia has experienced an average of one “social conflict” per day, according to a recent report that measures episodes of conflict reported in the press. Underlying these statistics is the defining role played by Bolivia’s social movements—arguably the most powerful and combative in the hemisphere—in the country’s political history.
Brazil Without Poverty? Dilma’s Double Discourse
Jun 9, 2011
Last week Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff launched an ambitious program to eradicate extreme poverty by 2014. Under the “Brazil Without Poverty” initiative, the government will spend $12.5 billion a year to expand cash transfers and health, education, and job training services for some 16 million people (8.5% of Brazil’s population) with incomes of up to $44 per month, who have failed to benefit from Brazil’s rapidly expanding economy. The announcement comes as Rousseff continues to be challenged, in the international spotlight, by conflicts that expose the high cost of economic progress borne by Brazil’s most impoverished and indigenous communities.
Peru: Anti-Mining Blockades Suspended For Elections
Jun 3, 2011
Indigenous anti-mining protesters in southeastern Perú have agreed to temporarily suspend their mobilizations until after the run-off presidential vote scheduled for Sunday, June 5. For the past three weeks, up to 30,000 Aymará and Quechua farmers have organized road blockades that paralyzed commerce at the Perú-Bolivian border and shut down the regional capital city of Puno. Credit:...
Bolivia: Communities Pioneer Sustainable Development
May 27, 2011
In remote corners of Bolivia, local communities are pioneering sustainable mining and forestry strategies that could provide useful models in the global struggle against climate change.   Cotapata Mining Cooperative
Bolivia: The COB vs. the GOB
May 20, 2011
The conspicuous absence of the COB, Bolivia’s national trade union federation, from the government’s official International Workers’ Day celebration on May 1 speaks volumes about the growing fissures in the popular coalition that brought President Evo Morales to power. For 12 days in April, the COB led widespread mobilizations to protest the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) government’s proposed...
También La Lluvia: Postscript
May 13, 2011
The feature film “También La Lluvia” (“Even the Rain”) has been giving U.S. movie audiences a taste of the popular struggle against water privatization that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2000.    Drawing parallels between the exploitation of indigenous people—and their organized resistance—in colonial, neoliberal, and contemporary times, the film was shot on location in Cochabamba and features 3,000 extras drawn from the city’s poor southern hillside neighborhoods who were actual protagonists in the Water War. The main indigenous character (played by an actor/ filmmaker from El Alto) is partially modeled on Oscar Olivera, a leader of the water revolt.