Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Update

Shall we begin:

  • Our journey through the intertubes begins with the 10 year commemoration of beloved Plan Colombia, which was last Tuesday. WOLA has the good word.  Despite the popular belief that it has been a "success", WOLA writes:

    Looked at more closely, though, Colombia’s security gains are partial, possibly reversible, and weighed down by “collateral damage.” They have carried a great cost in lives and resources. Progress on security has been stagnating, and even reversing. Scandals show that the government carrying out these security policies has harmed human rights and democratic institutions. Progress against illegal drug supplies has been disappointing. And wealth is being concentrated in ever fewer hands.

    Check out the link to read the whole report, complete with all the statistics (complete with pretty charts) to back it up.
  • In the polling department, Otto's got the breakdown in Peru. Puts it better than I could, so in his own words: "Lord help the world, Keiko "I'm not the continuation of Fujimori policies" Fujimori (make that Fuji-Freakin-Mori) is ahead with 22% of voter intention. Second is Luis "Interesting" Castañeda and third....still creeping ex-Pres Alejandro Toledo, who still has my five bucks as most likely winner right now (and I'm no real fan of his, before you say anything)."
  • Sue Myrick (R-NC) takes home the "wild-eyed theory of the week", from Peter Krupa at Lat/Am Daily. Ladies and gentleman, your U.S Congress.
  • Great post at the Mex Files on a Spanish vocab website that is "entertaining and instructing in equal measure". Check out some hilarious examples. Or check out the site itself, "Effective Swearing in the D.F."
  • Colombia made a totally unsurprising announcement, saying there are guerilla camps on the Venezuelan side of the border. They even gave the coordinates, 23 kilometers from the border. C'mon Colombia, that's a pretty big, remote border. I'm not impressed. I also would disagree with Boz that Uribe is doing Santos a favor by taking the hit right before he leaves office. If Santos denounces the whole thing and calls for dialogue with Chavez directly then maybe he makes out okay, but it is pretty unreasonable to think that Chavez wouldn't hold Santos, who was responsible for the raid into Ecuador, as equally responsible for this.  There was just no need to make a big public display over this except to do exactly that; make a big public display.  Now Colombia says they will take it to the OAS on Thursday. If you want to listen to the whole thing, you can do it at the OAS website, might prove entertaining.
  • Benjamin Dangl at Upside Down World, shares his Foreward to Raul Zibechi's book, "Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces", recently translated into English.  To read some recent article's of Zibechi's, check them out at Foreign Policy in Focus.
  • Good and bad news out of the case that pitted "Crude" director Joe Berlinger against Chevron, another subplot of the $28 billion lawsuit against Chevron brought by communities in Ecuador's Amazon. Lisa Derrick, at La Figa (FDL) has the dirty details.  Berlinger still has to hand over footage to Chevron, but conversations "with defendants, lawyers and their families are protected."
  • The New York Times has a long article on "cattle-ranching drug barons" who are destroying parts of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest swatch of protected land in Central America. 
  • Great article (in Spanish) in La Jornada, on the reasons why both the National party and Liberal party are pushing for Zelaya's return to Honduras. The National party wants to gain recognition from countries other than Peru and Colombia, the Liberal party needs him to avoid marginalization, and it's the first priority of the Resistance, who just appointed him coordinator. For more on Zelaya's relations with the Liberal party and the Resistance, and for all your Honduran needs, be sure to keep apace with Honduras Culture and Politics.
  • In the latest example of the US' intervention in Central America coming back to haunt them...and others, the Washington Post has a long report on how Mexican drug cartels are stepping up their use of grenades. And where did they find all these grenades? From the WaPo: "The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush sent 300,000 hand grenades to friendly regimes in Central America to fight leftist insurgents in the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, according to declassified military data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Federation of American Scientists." And according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, some 90% of the grenades in Mexico are at least 20 years old. Check out the article for more.
  • A real interesting article in the Economist on Brazil becoming "one of the world's biggest aid donors." Like China, Brazilian aid does not come with "Western-style conditions". The head of Brazil's development agency explains, "Marco Farani, the head of ABC, argues there is a specifically Brazilian way of doing aid, based on the social programmes that have accompanied its recent economic success. Brazil has a comparative advantage, he says, in providing HIV/AIDS treatment to the poor and in conditional cash-transfer schemes like Bolsa Família. Its tropical-agriculture research is among the world’s best. But Brazil also still receives aid so, for good or ill, its aid programme is eroding the distinction between donors and recipients, thus undermining the old system of donor-dictated, top-down aid." Sounds like a positive development, although problems clearly remain as the Economist article notes.
  • The generally odious Andres Oppenheimer writes something worth a damn for a change. Comparing the US' denial of a visa for Hollman Morris to "a page right out of the Cuba-North Korea-Iran playbook." Most interesting fact from the piece though comes from the PEN Club, a free press group, who estimate that "about 250 academics, journalists and writers had their visa denied between 2001 and the end of the Bush administration," for ideological reasons. 
  • Finally, mad props to Argentina, who passed a law recognizing same-sex marriages last week. Glenn Greenwald has a nice take and relates it to the treatment of the issue in the U.S. Greenwald writes, "That's what is most striking here:  this is not happening in some small Northern European country renown for its ahead-of-the-curve social progressivism (though gay marriage or civil unions are now the norm in Western Europe).   Just as is true for Brazil, which I've written about before with regard to my personal situation, Argentina is a country with a fairly recent history of dictatorships, an overwhelmingly Catholic population (at least in name), and pervasive social conservatism, with extreme restrictions on abortion rights similar to those found on much of the continent.  The Catholic Church in Argentina vehemently opposed the enactment of this law.  But no matter.  Ending discrimination against same-sex couples is understood as a matter of basic equality, not social progressivism, and it thus commands widespread support." For the contrast with the U.S., check out the link.

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