This Week in the Americas

The Agrofuels Trap
By Laura Carlsen

Agrofuel development has arrived on the global stage. Just this year, the number of declarations, dollars, and development plans that have gone to agrofuels are unparalleled in any other sector. An idea that languished for decades has suddenly become the darling of politicians, big business, international financiers, and the media.

This fact alone should make us worry. Since when has an ecological response to fossil fuel use found favor with governments and corporations alike? Agrofuels have been touted as the solution to the most pressing problems facing U.S. society and the planet. Promoters claim they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stave off the end of industrial growth based on fossil fuels, are sustainable and renewable, increase energy security, and help farmers. But a closer look reveals that in many ways the rosy future envisioned by agrofuels promoters looks like the worst of the past. The “green” in agrofules looks more like dollar signs than plants.

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a) 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.

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New from the Americas Program

Biofuels and Small Farmers
By Victor M. Quintana

The biofuels boom is not just another trend or a passing fashion. It is the result of a new global food and energy cycle that entails very significant adjustments in our societies.

It is not that we should reject biofuels in general, but we clearly reject the promotion of ethanol production based on corn and the advancement of biofuels within the logic of transnationals in Mexico. Their exploration and development—if it enters into the hyper-industrial and transnational logic—will harm not just peasant families and rural communities, but also less powerful nations. In the long run, these "solutions" will be counterproductive for the very problems they seek to address.

The path to follow entails the small-scale production of biofuels from diverse sources so as not to enter into conflict with food production nor fall into the cultivation of monocrops.

Victor M. Quintana is an adviser to the Frente Democrático Campesino de Chihuahua, researcher at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, and collaborator with the Americas Program, at Translated by Annette Ramos.

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Uruguay’s "Urban Landless" Fight for Housing Cooperatives
By Raúl Zibechi

Following almost four decades of struggle for urban land to build their houses, mutual-aid housing cooperatives confront the progressive government of President Tabaré Vázquez, which has criminalized occupations and bogged down loans. After over three decades of struggle, what is happening to them now under the leftwing government seems disconcerting.

The nearly 500 housing cooperatives under the movement’s leading organization are the result of three great waves of land-struggle that led to the construction of over 20,000 homes.

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst at Brecha, a weekly
journal in Montevideo, Uruguay, professor and researcher on social movements
at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to grassroots
organizations. He writes the monthly "Zibechi Report" for the CIP
Americas Policy Program (
Translated by Tracy Dreyer.

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Indigenous People Challenge Peru’s Soy Highway
By Zachary Hurwitz

The Initiative for the Regional Integration of Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) is the latest in a series of disastrous international bank-financed schemes to bring "development" to the Amazon basin. Launched in 2000 by the governments of the region and taking advantage of a confluence of regional financing from major international finance institutions, IIRSA contains 350 projects that include ecologically damaging highway, dam, pipeline, and port projects. Many of these will open up new areas to large-scale, export-oriented agricultural production and energy extraction in the Amazon basin. The following is an interview with 2007 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Julio Cusurichi, representative of the Federación Nativa de Madre de Dios (FENAMAD).

Zachary Hurwitz is a graduate student at the Department of Geography and the
Environment at the University of Texas at Austin. During 2007 he was the IIRSA
Program Associate for Amazon Watch, an environmental organization based in
San Francisco, California, and he contributes to the Americas Policy Program

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