Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Around Latin America

-Copper miners in Chile went on strike earlier this week at the second-biggest copper-complex in the world, demanding better pay. Chile's copper miners have historically been one of the stronger labor forces in the world due to the importance of their work in terms of Chile's GNP (indeed, some have argued that Chile's copper miners are their own style of "privilged" union in comparison to other unions in Chile because of the importance of their work), and this strike was no exception, as copper prices immediately rising globally. Yesterday, Codelco, the mining company, offered a new compensation package for the workers, and they accepted it and ended the strike.

-In Paraguay, allegations of a planned military coup against Fernando Lugo continue to surface, in spite of (or perhaps because of) Lugo's efforts to clean out the military leadership when he took office.

-Prosecutions against military officers who participated in the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 in Argentina continue, as 15 men are now being tried before a tribunal. Another officer, known as the "Angel of Death," is also facing prison for his role in torture and "disappearances," including the murder of two French nuns, during the "Dirty War." And a judge who was involved with torture sessions was just sentenced to prison for 21 years for "misconduct," including a hit-and-run involving a swimmer and the judge's motorboat.

-Clashes erupted in Suriname between locals and Brazilian gold miners after a local was stabbed by a Brazilian. At least 25 were injured, while the Brazilian alleged to have committed the stabbing is in police custody. The case issues both the diaspora of (usually poor) Brazilians from the north seeking wealth in neighboring countries, and the tensions that can and do arise from this dispersion.

-The Brazilian government is finally trying to legally establish who owns what lands in the Amazonian basin. The decision arises out of the ongoing violence against poor landowners and landless individuals, who are often in conflict with major landowners and who are often murdered by the wealthy and their underlings, murders that function in a similar manner as in the murder of Dorothy Strang). Environmentalists hope the new efforts will also provide a state presence in the region and reduce deforestation. I don't have much hope about the environmental effects of this new policy, but certainly, a stronger state presence is needed in the region, and if the policy reduces the number of murders over land claims in the North, then that alone will be a noteworthy accomplishment.

-A new map has mapped the Guarani territory in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. In addition to defining the exact geographic region the Guarani claim as their homeland, the map also reveals the sources of threat to Guarani land and culture, including expanding soy farming, dams, and deforestation.

-In spite of the ever-classy efforts of Republican Senators Jim DeMint and George LeMieux to block (with damaging economic consequences) Barack Obama's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Brazil, the U.S. Senate finally was able to approve both Thomas Shannon as ambassador to Brazil and David Nelson as ambassador to Uruguay. It's really inexcusable that it has taken this long to get an ambassador to one of the largest countries politically, economically, and geographically, but the stupidity of Republican tantrum-throwing in the name of "opposition" knows no bounds.