State Dept. on Bolivian, Venezuelan Votes; Ending the Drug War, Outsourcing Immigrants; Political Economy of Migration; Mexican Tourism and Land Battles; Autonomy or Domination; Brazil and Biofuels

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This Week in the Americas

A New Attitude in the White House?
State Department Calls Bolivian, Venezuelan Referendums “Democratic”

By Laura Carlsen

There are early signs of change in the Obama State Department. In response to significant political victories by former Bush nemeses Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, State Department spokespersons praised the democratic processes in these countries, indicating a more open attitude toward the growing independence of Latin American nations.

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New from the Americas Program

Immigrant Inmates Caught in Outsourcing Labyrinth
By Tom Barry

Imprisoned immigrants in the large prison complex outside the small West Texas town of Pecos have rioted twice over the past few months complaining about inadequate medical care. Their complaints, sparked by the death of an inmate in solitary confinement, echo a chorus of similar complaints around the country about medical care in immigrant prisons.

In a system where poor rural counties seek to improve their economies by building prisons as private corporations thrive off of the ever-growing number of prisoners, immigrant prisoner inmates find themselves in a labyrinth of unaccountability.

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The New Political Economy of Immigration
By Tom Barry

While the Department of Homeland Security is driving immigrants from their jobs and homes, U.S. firms in the business of providing prison beds are raking in record profits from the immigrant crackdown. Local governments are vying with each other to attract new immigrant prisons as the foundation of their "economic development" plans. Although only one piece of the broader story of immigration, it’s all a part of the new political economy of immigration.

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Night of the Golden Iguana: Land Conflicts Riddle Mexican Tourism Development
By Kent Paterson

Certain events transform the world. The coming of the railroad to the rural United States, the invention of the atomic bomb, and 9-11 are a few examples that immediately come to mind. For the residents of the small, bayside community of Mismaloya near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, their world changed dramatically when John Huston, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and company came calling in 1963.

Today, the impact of that first visit has exploded and word of the Mismaloya struggle to keep their lands despite the booming tourism industry is filtering out to the national and international community.

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Autonomy or New Forms of Domination?
By Raúl Zibechi

The election of "progressive" presidents in eight out of 10 governments in South America has created a new paradigm within the institutional political scenario. These governments came to power largely due to the resistance of social movements to the neoliberal model.

Social movements played roles in the election of "progressive" administrations, but they have suffered fragmentation and co-option as a result. Each time those from below throw off the trappings of domination, newer, more perfected forms necessarily appear. Only by neutralizing government social programs and overcoming the offensive against autonomy from below can social movements find their way back to the road to independence.

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Migration and Mechanization in Brazil’s Biofuel Cane Fields
By Gretchen Gordon

In the rich sugarcane region of São Paulo lies the quiet town of Guariba. Outside the Catholic church in Guariba’s main square, a driver parallel parks his horse and cart in between a Chevy and a Fiat. At the center of an ethanol boom that is transforming Brazil’s centuries-old sugar industry into a high-tech global supplier of biofuels, Guariba is a collision of old and new.

Almost 10% of Guariba’s population works as cane cutters. Most have migrated from northeastern Brazil where land and jobs are scarce. As Brazilians continue to flock to the region in search of a better way of life, the globalizing industry makes those dreams even more elusive.

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