This Week in the Americas

Hemispheric Conference against Militarization Says No to Merida Initiative, U.S. Military Bases
By Laura Carlsen

More than 800 representatives from organizations throughout the Americas made their way to the northern city of La Esperanza, Honduras to take a strong stand against the militarization of their nations and communities. Following three days of workshops, the participants read their final declaration in front of the gates of the U.S. Army Base at Palmerola, Honduras, just hours from the conference site. The first demand on the list was to close down this and all U.S. military based in Latin America and the Caribbean. By the end of the demonstration, the walls of the base sported hundreds of spray-painted messages and demands that contrasted sharply with their prison-like austerity. Read more about the meeting and the declaration.

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

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New from the Americas Policy Program

The Failure of Operation Chihuahua
By Víctor M. Quintana S.

What is happening in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico is a living (or dead) illustration of the failure of the Mexican government in the improvised struggle against organized crime that President Felipe Calderon started at the onset of his term.

Now the executive branch has to recognize something that was pointed out long ago and was never recognized: The Joint Operation Chihuahua involving the army, federal, and state police has been a great fiasco. It has been characterized more by failure in containing organized crime activity and by human rights violations, than by efficient results. Even more, in reality, the joint factor is absent. There is no common strategy.

Víctor M. Quintana is adviser to the Frente Democrático Campesino de Chihuahua, researcher-teacher at Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez and collaborator for the Americas Program

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Special Bolivia Section:

Winds of Civil War in Bolivia: Understanding a Four-party Conflict
By Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar

During the first fortnight of September, the northern, eastern, and southern regions of Bolivia were in chaos. Even now, as the violence, confusion, and death that spreads from the "autonomous" regions seems to have died down—and a difficult negotiation has begun between the central government and the dissident provinces involving national and foreign intermediaries and observers including the OAS and representatives of various established churches—internal tension is not easing.

Understanding recent events is very difficult due to a tangle of disputes and long histories that come together in previously unheard-of ways. This essay seeks to schematically display the events that culminated in the massacre of El Porvenir in Pando and identify the actors in the conflict.

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Multi-Layered Conflict Poses Uncertain Future for Bolivian Reforms
By Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar

August, the month of Pachamama according to indigenous tradition, saw the steady build-up of the hostilities and confrontations that have been tearing this country apart. Evo Morales’ government and his political party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), finally regained the political initiative the last week of September, by setting a date for the referendum on the constitution and special elections.

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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.

Raquel Gutiérrez is a researcher at the Centro de Estudios Andinos y Mesoamericanos (CEAM) en México y Bolivia. She is an analyst with the Americas Program

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The Bolivian Crisis, the OAS, and UNASUR
By Tony Phillips

The unanimous declaration of support from South American presidents in the UNASUR meeting in Santiago raises hope that this new forum could offer a stabilizing force for self-managed South American international relations that could rival or surpass the Organization of American States.

It could be interpreted as further evidence of the rise in the diplomatic clout of Brasilia at the expense of Washington, DC.

Tony Phillips is a researcher and journalist on trade and multinational finance with an emphasis on dictatorships and the WTO, and a translator and analyst for the Americas Policy Program at Much of Tony’s work is published at

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The Failure of U.S. "Democracy Promotion" in Bolivia
By Laura Carlsen

After months of bloodshed, violence, and vandalism, Bolivia may finally be back on the path to non-violent institutional reforms—no thanks to the U.S. government.

It is U.S. citizens’ right to evaluate possible U.S. involvement in whipping up and consolidating the violent opposition in Bolivia. The only lesson learned from impunity is how to continue to behave badly. The appointment of a new ambassador dedicated to peaceful resolution of conflict and respectful relations between the two nations would be a good indication of a needed change in attitude during this crucial moment in Bolivia’s history.

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

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