This Week in the Americas
By Laura Carlsen

Dear Readers,

This issue of the Americas Updater provides a vivid sampling of the changes going on in Latin America
and the tensions that are shaping new alternatives throughout the hemisphere.

I had the opportunity to interview Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro
Garcia Linera
at the National Palace in La Paz; the result is a remarkably candid interview
on the trials and tribulations of making radical change from government. Although Bolivia’s natural
resources have gained in value, the poor landlocked nation has to come up from behind in its efforts
to attain what Garcia Linera calls the "two conquests of equality"—the creation of a plurinational
state that guarantees the full exercise of political rights to indigenous peoples, and economic equality
of opportunities that breaks down the neocolonial distribution of wealth and power. Garcia Linera
discusses the conflicts that have arisen, the obstacles to the Constituent Assembly and the goals
set forth by the Evo Morales government. The nearly two hours of hard questions and carefully thought-out
responses resulted in a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of the hemisphere’s most far-reaching
programs for change. Expect to see more, as this represents the first in a series analyzing grassroots
movements, government policies, and external constraints as Bolivia moves toward a new society.

From Peru, economist Ariela Ruiz Caro writes
on the recent approval of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and why many Peruvians aren’t
dancing in the streets. The agreement gives U.S. investors access to natural resources in exchange
for a market for relatively low-value primary sector products. The country now has to revise over 50
national laws to accommodate the terms of the treaty. She concludes that eventually Peru "will
lose the tariff preferences that it has negotiated in exchange for a set of legal norms that determine
a development strategy that is essentially favorable and workable only for large corporations." It
is apparent that the United States needs to rethink these policies. If you agree, please sign on to
the Moratorium
on Free Trade Agreements

Another series that debuts in this issue deals with the grassroots urban popular movement. Throughout
the second half of the past century, the movement has consistently been a bulwark against dictatorships
and a breeding ground for grassroots alternatives. As Raúl Zibechi explains in his article on
the 50th anniversary of La Victoria, a popular
settlement in Santiago, the resistance and spirit of independence developed in these communities has
carried into the new century as they confront new threats of police occupation through the construction
of decentralized "neighborhood networks."

Moving to Argentina, Marie Trigona reports on the protests
against Wal-Mart
from workers. Congress has investigated Wal-Mart’s anti-union practices and
consumers are being brought into the campaign to reveal that low prices come at a cost to workers
and to the society as a whole. Throughout the hemisphere, Wal-Mart has come under attack for the
way it has transformed the retail food sector and supply chains.

Finally, "The Battle of Zihuatenejo" pits
much of the local community against the international tourism industry, backed up by a government that
too often fails to enforce its own environmental laws. The Pacific Ocean bay has become a popular destination
for giant cruise ships and the battle hinges on construction of a new pier within the bay itself. What
longtime residents and vacationers fear is that the charm and natural beauty that lure the cruise ships
to the town will be sacrificed to the lure of tourist dollars. The end result could be an irrevocably
polluted bay and the tourists will move on—another modern-day instance of killing the goose that laid
the golden eggs.

Latin America may not be in the headlines these days, but these in-depth views of the region prove
that major issues facing the planet are being played out here on a daily basis. The Americas
Policy Program
is one of the very few services that provides original analysis of under-reported
events, from a citizens’ perspective. We have a firmly established network of political writers throughout
the Western Hemisphere, who offer articles that you won’t find in the mainstream press. Please help
us keep this work going by donating online at,
noting in the comment section that you are supporting the Americas Policy Program. If you would prefer
to send a check, you can make it out to the Center for International Policy, putting Americas Program
in the memo line (or filling out the printable
form), and mailing it to 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 801, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your continued readership and support.


New from the Americas Policy Program

Bolivia—Coming to Terms with Diversity
By Laura Carlsen

As head of Congress and the major political operator for President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera stands in the eye of a political hurricane. The changes proposed by the MAS government have unleashed protest from conservative sectors of society, leading to suspension of the Constituent Assembly called to revamp the nation’s political institutions.

In this interview from the La Paz, Garcia Linera says the conflicts are to be expected, as Bolivian society takes on “the two conquests of equality”—political rights for indigenous peoples and economic equality through a redistribution of national wealth. He calls the Morales administration a “government of social movements” and describes the goals to build “institutions that allow us to recognize our pluralism” and “generate minimal levels of access to opportunities and resources.”

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a) is director of the Americas Policy Program ( in Mexico City.

See full article online at:


Peru Gets its Free Trade Agreement with the United States
By Ariela Ruiz Caro

The North American market is undoubtedly important for our country. The problem is the price
that we are willing to pay for it. Latin American countries in general, and Peru in particular, have
not taken into account that, in a world where the generation of wealth is based more and more on knowledge
and technology, opening up the U.S. market to its raw materials is counter-productive. In exchange
for acceptance of our asparagus, caramel, flowers, and other products with little added value, we are
forced to accept a body of laws that consolidate the development strategy applied during the past two
decades and inexorably deepen the income gap in the region exactly as it has in Mexico and Chile.

Ariela Ruiz Caro (arielaruizcaro(a) is a Peruvian economist that has worked in the Andean Community of Nations. She is a consultant at CEPAL and the president of the Commission of Permanent Representatives of MERCOSUR and an analyst for the Andean region for the CIP Americas Policy Program at

See full article online at:


La Victoria, Chile: Half a Century Building Another World
By Raúl Zibechi

La Victoria settlement in Santiago, Chile, recently observed its 50th anniversary. It was one of the first organized occupations of urban land on the continent and in a half century built an alternative city, defied the dictatorship, and continues to find ways to break out of the neoliberal model.

The "encampment" withstood police eviction actions, and families built the settlement brick by brick. From the first moment, they themselves defined the criteria they would follow. The construction of the settlement, which they called "La Victoria" [victory], was "an enormous exercise in self-organization by the settlers," who had to "join forces and invent resources, putting into play every bit of knowledge and all their skills."

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst for 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 CIP Americas Program (

See full article online at:


Wal-Mart Faces Accusations of Anti-union Practices in Argentina
By Marie Trigona

Wal-Mart’s aggressive efforts to keep labor unions out of stores worldwide have come under fire across the hemisphere. On Nov. 17 an international day of action will call attention to workers’ reports of how the retail chain systematically violates international labor laws protecting workers’ rights to free association and union organizing. As the world’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart has set a precedent for bad working conditions for employees in the United States and abroad.

According to Argentina’s anti-Wal-Mart activists, Wal-Mart may have met its match, with union delegates eager to improve working conditions and unionize more workers in stores. Argentine workers are pushing for independent union representation, and seem to be making strides despite pressures.

Marie Trigona is a journalist based in Argentina and writes regularly for the Americas Policy Program ( She can be reached at mtrigona(a)

See full article online at:


The Battle of Zihuatanejo
By Kent Paterson

Zihuatanejo, nestled on the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Guerrero, has come a long way from the pristine bay European plunderers penetrated. Today it projects the duality of overdevelopment and underdevelopment.

The planned construction of a new cruise ship terminal connected to Zihuatanejo’s main beach has townspeople up in arms. Promoted by the federal Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT) and slated to handle up to three ships at a time, a bay pier could triple the number of cruise ship passengers steaming into small Zihuatanejo Bay. The controversial project is one component of the SCT’s ambitious plans to dramatically increase cruise ship arrivals in Mexican ports. Cruise ship boosters favor a bay pier, but a new movement, People for the Defense of the Bay, is actively organizing to stop it.

Kent Paterson is a longtime freelance journalist who covers the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Latin America, also an analyst for the Americas Policy Program at He has visited Zihuatanejo for 17 years. Research assistance for this article was provided by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

See full article at:


Letters from our readers

In reaction to "The Battle of Zihuatanejo" at

Corporate Greed is almost impossible to fight. If there is money to be made, sanity falls off the
cliff. I wish everyone well in this uphill battle, destroying what is left of this enchanted bay is
criminal, but it is feeding a whole whack of probably already stuffed wallets. Buena Suerte.

Gretchen Goodliffe