Articles by: Teo Ballvé
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has reiterated his vow to quickly return to his country to re-assume his rightful place as the nation's president. This week will be a determinant moment in the outcome of the crisis caused by the June 28 military coup against Zelaya. The major players in this crisis have all shown signs of growing impatience with the current situation, meaning that everything could come to a head.
Grants for biofuel crop production from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)—paid for through Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar US aid package aimed at fighting the drug trade—appears to have put drug-war dollars into the hands of a confessed paramilitary and two accused narco-traffickers, in possible violation of federal law. USAID internal documents, corporate filings and press reports raise questions about the agency’s vetting of applicants, in particular its ability to detect their links to narco-paramilitaries, violent crimes and illegal land seizures.
With all that happened at the Summit of the Americas, it was easy to miss a significant about-face by the Obama administration. No, it wasn't the administration's supposedly softer stance toward Cuba. Nor was it Venezuela's well-received offer (by Chávez-basher Hillary Clinton no less) to re-exchange ambassadors with Washington. Obama won't read the Spanish edition of The Open Veins of Latin America, a gift from Chávez, so that can be dismissed, too.
Should constructive criticism of Latin America's left-leaning governments play a role in North American solidarity activism? Can this criticism be made without playing into the hands of reactionaries? Can critiques be made without reproducing paternalistic North American finger wagging? Yes, but with an important caveat.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, an opportune time for President-elect Obama to signal an end to the Cuban embargo. During the campaign, Obama promised to “turn the page and begin to write a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba policy.” Contrary to the Bush administration's policies, Obama said he would give Cuban-Americans “unrestricted rights” to visit family and send cash remittances to the island. But he stopped short on endorsing an end to the embargo.
President-elect Barack Obama should rescind the Monroe Doctrine, which is 185 years old this week. Obama would do well to depart from the bipartisan consensus of the Monroe Doctrine and truly chart a new course for change, one that respects the independence of Latin American countries and one that is in keeping with the values that he espouses. In any event, Latin America is leaving Washington behind.
Colombia’s armed conflict is taking the AIDS epidemic among the country’s women and displaced population in radically new directions. Both guerrillas and paramilitaries often run prostitution rackets in areas under their control, forcing sex workers to have unprotected sex and extract bits of information from enemy clients. Combatants themselves are five times more likely than civilians to contract HIV.
With the U.S. military's lease on its base in Manta, Ecuador set to expire in 2009, a new report suggests U.S. military operations in South America might have found a perfect new home in central Colombia's Palanquero air base, one of the region's most state-of-the-art military installations.
In poor cities around the world, millions eke out a living by scavenging recyclable materials from the streets that can be exchanged for fractions of a cent. They are at the lowest rung of consumer society, the very rock-bottom of globalization. And they know it. “If we were any poorer, we’d be dead,” said Jorge Eliécer Ospina, a trash recycler in Bogotá, Colombia.
The standoff in the Andes ended like a sappy Latin American telenovela with stiff hugs and handshakes at a March 6 summit. But that’s not stopping the Bush administration from using the conflict to ram Colombia’s pending “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA) through Congress.