This Week in the Americas

Latin America Sends Obama Congratulations—and a Piece of its Mind
By Laura Carlsen

Pundits have said that the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States will not change the nation’s world image overnight. But in Latin America, it already has.

Congratulations have poured in from Western Hemisphere leaders, press, and citizens. Most celebrate how the United States “has broken racial barriers” by electing the first African-American president. In countries struggling with issues of diversity and discrimination, this is major news—and news they didn’t expect to come out of the inertial U.S. political system. Afro-American populations in Brazil and elsewhere greeted the occasion with added enthusiasm.

Latin America is a good place to start to lay out a new foreign policy approach of non-intervention, multilateralism, and mutual respect. The region poses no real threats, and is not a hotspot for war or international terrorism. Democratic societies there are on the cutting edge of redistribution efforts aimed at what Obama tepidly suggests with his theme of dismantling policies that “help Wall Street but hurt Main Street.” A good neighbor foreign policy could create more horizontal relations directed toward shared objectives like peace, justice, stability, security, and well-being rather than the pursuit of the narrow interests of the rich and powerful.

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

Emanuel’s Political Pragmatism on Immigration Reform
By Tom Barry

Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff signals that political pragmatism, not campaign promises to Latinos, may determine immigration policy in the new administration.

It’s not that Congressman Emanuel (D-IL) is a foe of immigration, but rather that he seems to have concluded that comprehensive immigration reform is not a winning political proposition for Democrats. As Illinois congressional representative since 2003, Emanuel has repeatedly held the line against the immigration restrictionists and border security hardliners.

What’s certain is that the road ahead for the pro-immigration camp and immigrant advocates will be long, and the climb to immigration reform very steep indeed.

Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project ( of the Americas Policy Program ( at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. He blogs at

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Larry Summers, Champion of Wall Street Greed Attained by Impoverishing the Mexican People
By Peter Cervantes-Gautschi

Appointing Larry Summers as Treasury secretary would be a grave mistake, and a slap in the face to those who struggle for economic justice on both sides of the border. Summers, while serving as under secretary of the Treasury in 1995, engineered the destruction of Mexico’s economy by increasing interest rates to unmanageable levels. Thousands of farms and businesses went bankrupt. Unable to earn enough to support their families, many migrated to the United States to find family wage work.

Policies that impoverish workers, whether here or in Mexico, do not reflect the change we voted for. Surely the man we are so proud to have elected our president could choose, from among the many capable economists, one who values humanity.

Peter Cervantes-Gautschi is co-executive director of Enlace, an alliance of low wage worker organizations in the United States and Mexico, and analyst for the Americas Policy Program at Feedback can be directed to americas(a) or through their website,

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Anti-Bases Coalition Pushes U.S. Military Base out of Ecuador
By Helga Serrano

It’s important to share the successful strategies employed by the No Bases Coalition in their campaign against the U.S. base at Manta. Lessons were learned and there is more work to be done at the 1,000 remaining U.S. installations around the world.

In Ecuador’s case, President Rafael Correa’s decision to not renew the military contract was important, but it was the constant pressure from grassroots networks that led to this triumph for all who seek a demilitarized continent, with peace and full respect for sovereignty.

Helga Serrano is a member of the International Anti-Bases Network, Anti-Bases Coalition Ecuador, and ACJ/YMCA Ecuador, and a collaborator with the Americas Policy Program at

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Buenos Aires: The Poorest Resist "Social Cleansing"
By Raúl Zibechi

The shantytowns of the Argentine capital are the site of an intense conflict between the city’s government, presided over by businessman Mauricio Macri, and their inhabitants, the poorest and most marginalized who have been persecuted for decades.

According to unofficial figures, since the 2001 crisis the population of the slums has doubled, and in one and a half years grew by 30%. Macri was elected city governor in 2007 by an absolute majority of the conservative Argentine capital. The experience of Villa 31 provides some lessons: they have to control their "representatives" so that power does not buy them. They know that if they manage to do it, Macri and the speculative capital will have won.

Raúl Zibechi is international analyst for Brecha of Montevideo, Uruguay, lecturer and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to several social groups. He is a monthly collaborator with the Americas Policy Program (

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Chertoff’s Challenge to Obama
By Tom Barry

Immigration reform has a less than comprehensive look at the end of the Bush administration, as Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Michael Chertoff made clear in his wrap-up speech on the "State of Immigration." Over the past three years Chertoff has intensified the post-Sept. 11 immigrant crackdown with the aim of simplifying immigration reform. The Obama administration and the new Democratic Congress will soon face the challenge of addressing the immigration crisis. The path of least resistance may be to accept the "State of Immigration" as shaped and defined by Chertoff and the Republicans.

Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project ( of the Americas Policy Program ( at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. He blogs at

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