Obama’s Latin America Policy, Bolivia’s Referendum, Regional Financial Institutions

Note to our readers:

I’ll be in Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention next week. As many reporters abroad have noted, this is a global election because of what’s at stake, especially in foreign policy. We’ve certainly noted the interest among our partners in Latin America, who despite the language barrier are often remarkably informed about the daily campaign drama in the United States. Look for our coverage on the blog at www.americasmexico.blogspot.com and be sure to send me your questions or comments at lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org.

Laura Carlsen

New from the Americas Policy Program

Would There Be Change in Obama’s Americas Policy?
By Laura Carlsen

The great debate on how much—or how little—Barack Obama would change our disastrous U.S. foreign policy usually focuses on the Middle East. That makes sense. But a smaller, no less passionate, debate exists over Latin America policy.

Although the Western Hemisphere isn’t a headline-grabber these days, in an increasingly integrated world, it has become part of fundamental U.S. debates on trade, employment, immigration, and transnational crime.

Opinion divides sharply on whether his platform for U.S. policy in Latin America is really a “Change We Can Believe In.” Looking at it closely, the picture gives reasons for hope, but also some important points to work on.

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City. This piece was part of a talk at the Lessons from NAFTA Conference. Check out the Americas Mexico blog at www.americasmexico.blogspot.com.

See full article online at:


What did Bolivian Society Say Through the Recall Referendum?
By Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar

Last Aug. 10, Bolivia finally voted in the recall referendum that had held the country in commotion for at least three months prior. That day, for the first time ever all citizens were called to cast a ballot—not to elect their rulers, but to ratify or revoke them midway through their terms. The results confirm that the divisions in Bolivian society are brutal, but at the same time the referendum opens certain channels through which, perhaps, some new possibilities can be glimpsed.

The forces in confrontation are clearly differentiated. On the one hand, President Evo Morales’s ruling party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS, Movement toward Socialism), and on the other, the four-governors’ coalition from the Eastern provinces commonly known as "The Crescent." Both groups have built up their political capacity based on their links to constituents from different segments of the population. But beyond that, the conflict is embedded in a much deeper and historically rooted social conflict that has to come to the fore in Bolivian society today.

Confidence in Morales continues and increases, but, as is known from Bolivian society’s deepest vital core, political transformations of the institutional and regulatory structure of inherited power are urgently needed. This important breakdown of the results helps us to understand the reality there.

Raquel Gutiérrez is a researcher with the Center for Andean and Central American Studies, CEAM, in Mexico and Bolivia. She is a senior analyst with Americas Policy Program, www.americaspolicy.org.

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Democracy and Conflict: Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly, Federal Government, and Departmental Autonomy Statutes
By Pilar Uriona Crespo and Dunia Mokrani Chávez

Popular mobilization since 2000 has opened up the possibility of political and social change in Bolivia, based on a political project envisioned by social movements. Their critique centers on the privatization process at the core of the political-economic model implemented in Bolivia since 1985, characterized by the structural reforms dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB).

One side of the debate is made up of traditional political elites, now part of provincial governments, who consolidate a discourse in which their interpretation of "democratic" fits in with formalist and legal notions that seek to curb the possibility of the practice of radical democracy, and defend a type of institutionalism that serves their interests, rejecting, like anti-democrats, other expressions of political participation that are beyond the current order, but must be transformed through the constituent process.

Pilar Uriona Crespo and Dunia Mokrani Chávez are researchers at the Centro de Estudio Andinos Amazónicos y Mesoamericanos (CEAM) and members of the Comité de Seguimiento a Conflictos del Observatorio Social de América Latina (OSAL-CLACSO). They are also analysts for the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) where this article was published.

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An Introduction to Regional Financial Institutions in Latin America
By Eduardo Gudynas

This article describes the developing group of Regional Financial Institutions (RFIs), identifies its members, and analyzes their main characteristics.

RFIs present great opportunities for autonomous regional development, but their operations require extensive reforms and updates. The fact that they are in the hands of Latin American governments is no excuse for avoiding reforms; rather it presents a mandate to carry out the necessary transformations.

Eduardo Gudynas <egudynas(a)adinet.com.uy> is an analyst at CLAES D3E, a research center for the promotion of sustainable development (www.integracionsur.com) and a collaborator with the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org).

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Comments from our readers:

Re: Haiti’s Compounding Food and Health Crises

The situation in Haiti as described in the article is sufficient to create AIDS symptoms without the HIV. I am an AIDS heretic. I do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. In Haiti, malnutrition, bad water, and all the normal parasites and infections are sufficient to cause AIDS-like symptoms, as a healthy immune system requires good nutrition. This is why "AIDS" in Haiti is a heterosexual phenomenon as it is in Africa, where the same environmental conditions exist many places—malnutrition, bad water, the usual parasites, and infections.

The pharmaceutical companies sold $7 billion of AIDS drugs in 2007. Longer term what is necessary is what the article says: affordable food and clean water with the basic Western medicines. If the West was really interested in helping Haiti, it would provide natural gas at the same price as people now pay for charcoal used to cook their meals. Cooking with charcoal is what has deforested Haiti. If this program was run for 40 years, the forests and the environment might heal.

Jim Payette

Re: U.S. Recession, Drug War Violence Cause Crisis in Mexico Tourism

I do not agree at all with Mr. Kent Paterson and the interviews he made in Zihuatanejo that, if real, they were made to negative, pessimistic people. All the month of July we have received the visit of a lot of tourists due to summer vacation. All the streets are full with cars, buses, and tourists walking the streets, visiting our beaches, eating at restaurants, and buying souvenirs. At Ixtapa the big Hotels are 100% full and there is not enough parking for the cars of the visitors which have to park all along the Boulevard.

Yes, we are in crisis and these are difficult times in ALL THE WORLD, and yes, many foreign airlines have cancelled flights, but our tourism delegates are working on that to bring them back.

I know the facts because I have been living in Zihuatanejo for 15 years, originally from Mexico City, and have lived from one to three years in many cities of my country. I manage a small Hotel and participate in the Zihuatanejo Hotel Association.

Eloisa Rodriguez Galvez