This Week in the Americas

Reflections on the 2007 U.S. Social Forum
By Laura Carlsen and Katie Kohlstedt

Attending the U.S. Social Forum held in Atlanta, Georgia June 27-July 1 was an adventure. The first social forum for the United States, it was also one of the first in a series of regional events aimed at decentralizing the mega-World Social Forum that started in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The issues discussed at the first U.S. Social Forum did not revolve around utopian visions of a better society. Rather, they expressed the urgency of people fighting for survival—to survive as who they are in the face of intolerance, to preserve communities threatened by hate, to maintain basic freedoms and assure basic needs.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program at in Mexico City, where she has been a writer and political analyst for more than two decades.

Katie Kohlstedt is Program Associate at the Americas Program in Mexico City. Comments about this or any Americas Program article can be directed to

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New from the Americas Program

Brazilian Government Moves to Dam Principal Amazon Tributary
By Glenn Switkes

In recent months, the Brazilian government has turned to the difficult task of building giant hydroelectric dams in the Amazon River. The project presents President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with a major contradiction—between his ambitious economic development plan based on large-scale infrastructure, and the enormous social and environmental costs of the dams.

The hot-button issue is the plan to build two large dams at the Santo Antônio and Jirau rapids on the Madeira River in the Amazonian state of Rondônia. The projects would dam the Amazon’s principal tributary, causing dramatic changes to the riverine ecology and affecting thousands of families who depend on the river for income, nutrition, and agriculture.

Glenn Switkes is Director of International Rivers Network’s Latin America office, based in São Paulo and a contributor to the Americas Program

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Guatemala and Costa Rica: In and Out of CAFTA
By Umberto Mazzei

After nearly a year in CAFTA’s orbit, the same traditional exports as always are growing, outside of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The message is overwhelming: the country "sacrificed" itself to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States for nothing. The CAFTA model, pushing the Central American economy toward the export of non-traditional goods to the United States, has been a pretext for imposing expensive foreign pharmaceuticals as opposed to cheap, national generic drugs, overwhelming the peasant farmer with subsidized imports, and granting extra-territorial jurisdiction to foreign companies.

All indicates that the privileged share in an FTA with the United States is more a hindrance than a help.

Umberto Mazzei is a Doctor of Political Science from the University of Florence. He has been Professor of International Economics in universities in Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala. He is director of the Institute of International Economic Relations in Geneva ( and member of the Mesa Global coalition in Guatemala and a trade analyst for the Americas Program t Translated by Charlotte Elmitt.

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Chile’s Mapuche People Struggle to Defend Land and Culture
By Raúl Zibechi

The Mapuche people, history, culture, and struggles have long been blanketed in silence. The few pieces of news from southern Chile are almost always linked to repression or the Chilean government’s denunciations of "terrorism." The Mapuche suffer social and political isolation, and are left with few options beyond an arduous struggle for survival in rural areas or unstable, poorly-paid jobs in the cities. Yet they continue to resist timber and hydroelectric multinationals and seek to keep their traditions alive.

Raúl Zibechi is a member of the editorial board of Brecha, a weekly journal in Montevideo, Uruguay, professor and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to social groups. He is a monthly contributor to the Americas Program ( Translated by Maria Roof and Nalina Eggert.

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Torture, Terror, and Innocence at Guantanamo
By Center for International Policy

A new policy report by the Center for International Policy offers a concise overview of the many problems and concerns associated with the Guantanamo Bay prison, where nearly 400 alleged "enemy combatants" are held in violation of U.S. and international law. The report, written by CIP associates Jennifer Schuett and Abigail Poe, draws on the proceedings of a January 2007 conference on the Guantanamo prison sponsored by CIP.

See the full report: Why the Prison at Guantanamo Must Be Closed by downloading it at: