Monday, January 11, 2010

Around Latin America

-The longer-term effects of Micheletti's government are becoming increasingly clear, as Honduras is facing bankruptcy and the likelihood of foreign loans. Over the past several months since the coup, Micheletti's government has been drawing on reserves with no income (and certainly, the withdrawal of foreign investment in the wake of the illegal coup and global condemnation of the Micheletti government has not helped). This has left Honduras with no way to pay creditors as Lobo enters office at the end of the month. The result is that the only solution that seems to be on the table right now is foreign loans from institutions like the World Bank and IMF. Given the legacy of loans from these institutions in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the economic future for Honduras looks fairly bleak. It seems increasingly likely that Honduras can now expect to be paying off the financial burden of the actions of the military and Micheletti for years and years and years to come.

-In a massive step backwards, a Colombian court last week released 17 members of the Army involved in the 2008 Soacha murder case. The soldiers involved were accused of killing unemployed men from Bogota and dumping their bodies in the jungle to disguise the dead as "rebels." The fact that these 17 officers will be free from justice for their roles in the murder of numerous innocent poor Colombians is bad enough; the fact that they did so in order to up the unit's body count and qualify "for a schedule of rewards, as established by Defense Ministry orders" is even worse, as it's just another way that the Colombian government is tacitly supporting the murder of innocent civilians in the name of "security."

-Meanwhile, the ongoing conflict in Colombia can lead to gruesome instances, such as the fact that dumped bodies frequently wash up along the shores of the Cauca River (among others): "While hardly Colombia's only river repository for human remains, the Cauca may well be its most prolific. It carries the bodies of drug gang toughs, of peasants dismembered by death squads, of innocents killed for being kin to somebody's rival." Now, one woman is making an effort to give the bodies the dignity in death that they did not receive in life.

-Martinique and French Guyana voted this weekend on whether they would gain greater independence from France. The referendums on increased autonomy failed in both places , in part no doubt because France can (and probably does) spend more on the two than they could spend themselves, and in part because, as the BBC article demonstrates, residents of both "departments" simply don't trust their political leaders enough to have them lead independent countries.

-Tensions in Paraguay over the possibility of a coup against Fernando Lugo continue to run high, with resulting popular mobilizations already preparing to defend Lugo.

-An ongoing strike among the bauxite sector in Guyana is getting ugly, as the workers' union has alleged instances of racial discrimination against the workers on the part of the company involved.

-While Chilean copper miners resolved their strike last week, smelters continued their strike, but are now apparently close to signing a deal as well. The smelters' strike and the miners' strike briefly drove the global price of copper up last week.

-Argentina is facing a potentially-major institutional crisis, as Cristina Kirchner has forcibly removed the president of Argentina's Central Bank from his position in order to open up reserves for the struggling Argentine economy and (perhaps) salvage some of her own political capital. That may seem innocuous, but Central Banks throughout Latin America tend to function independent of the executive branch, (theoretically) working for the long-term economic stability and growth of a country and not focusing on short-term political moves. If Kirchner is successful, it could be a troubling step towards Central Banks becoming part of political moves for politicians on both the left and right.

-It turns out, one of the Mexican broadcasters for the NFL is a horribly misogynistic pig.

-Finally, in an effort to boost coca-leaf production and spur the Bolivian economy, Evo Morales has an interesting solution. Meet Coca Colla.