Massacre in the Amazon; NAFTA’s Debt Slavery; Bank of the South; Independent Media in Argentina; Radio Ñomndaa; Popular Communication in the MST; Obama’s Cartel Busters

Dear friends,

This has been a busy couple of weeks. I was up on the U.S. border at the 20th anniversary of the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras in Nuevo Laredo. A great group of workers and others discussed the economic crisis, immigration, and Plan Mexico in a city heavily patrolled by army troops. It was inspiring to listen to the accounts of how factory workers are fighting back against the cutbacks and dangerous working conditions. The crisis means that many are suffering forced temporary lay-offs, cutting deep into their already meager incomes. The bright spot is that these workers are waging brave and often winning battles for basic labor rights.

The day before the conference I interviewed migrants, mostly Central Americans, who are still making the harrowing trip north. Several have been kidnapped and robbed along the way and several others were back on the Mexican side of the border after being summarily deported from the United States after living and working there for over 20 years. Lives are being disrupted and threatened on a daily basis by the insane mix of uprooting trade policies and draconian immigration practices. More on that later.

Finally, last week was the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, an excellent opportunity to share research and thinking with scholars throughout the region, visit Brazil, and meet some of our Americas contributors down there. Our two linked panels on regional integration brought up some fascinating new thinking on the perils and possibilities of the integration process in South America.
Several of the articles in this edition of the Updater touch on the theme. On the one hand, the Free Trade Agreement model continues to reveal cracks and contradictions. Two stories focus on the costs of that model: how NAFTA’s liberalization of financial services has led to "debt slavery" in Mexico, and the terrible case of Peruvian indigenous peoples who were attacked and shot for protesting the enabling legislation for the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. On the other hand, efforts to build up South-South institutions to promote integration are moving forward. A two-part article on major advances in the Bank of the South shows why this could be a positive alternative for South American countries in the grips of a global economic crisis.



This Week in Americas Blogs

Border Lines Blog:

Three Fundamental Problems with Secure Communities

Secure Communities Dragnet: Innocent or Guilty

The Criminal Alien Problem of Secure Communities


New from the Americas Program

Massacre in the Amazon
By Raúl Zibechi

The massacre on June 5, World Environment Day, of Amazon Indians by the government of Alan Garcia is the last chapter of a long war to take over common lands, supported by the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and the United States.

See full article at:


NAFTA’S Serfs: From Wage Slavery to Debt Slavery
By Kent Paterson

Once a status symbol for the upper reaches of the middle class, credit cards became widely available in Mexico in recent years. However, this modern credit-based economy taking shape in Mexico was perfected long ago in the United States and just as in Mexico, the U.S. middle and working classes are feeling the tight grip of higher interest rates as wages, along with the economy, slump.

In a time when financial services are globalized, any movement to overthrow the Lords of Credit must transcend borders in order to be successful.

See full article at:


South American Nations Agree on Technical Rules for Bank of the South
By Tony Phillips

Seven Latin American finance ministers have agreed on the basis for establishing the Bank of the South. Given the current global financial crisis, some might question the logic of creating such a financial institution now. But Latin American leaders acted now precisely to head off the kind of regional impact experienced in the late 90s and early 2000s.

See full article at:


South American Trade and Currency Volatility
By Tony Phillips

Latin America has of some of the world’s largest countries, in terms of land area, but the continent has no large global economy: and only two medium-sized economies, Brazil and Mexico. The region also lacks a local hard currency as a basis for international, and especially intra-regional, trade.

Many of the commodities that South American countries export are not traded in the currency of the originating country. So, if Chile imports oil from Argentina or Argentina copper from Chile, they pay in U.S. dollars. A regional currency facilitates trade and the creation of financial service hubs.

See full article at:


Argentina’s Community Media Fights for Access and Legal Reform
By Marie Trigona

In response to misinformation and lack of access in the mass media, citizens have created alternative media networks that play a fundamental role in today’s Latin America. Together, these community television stations are transforming the media landscape throughout the Americas. This redefined space for independent media has three vital functions: disseminating alternative information; providing a space for popular voice and especially the voice of groups underrepresented in the media; and building community. In Argentina, citizen media groups simultaneously fight for autonomous spaces and for reforms in media laws that will allow them to operate legally.

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Radio Ñomndaa, The Word of the Water
By Iñigo Prieto Beguiristáin

The explosion of the community radio phenomenon is relatively new to Mexico. There is an ongoing debate as to what a "community radio"’ station is, as opposed to other stations which transmit in small geographical areas, and the great majority of which have not been issued a license: "social,"’ commercial, pirate, church, indigenous, and educational radio stations, among others, currently operate and share the airwaves in both rural and urban contexts throughout Mexico. The nature of community radio is essentially related to the organizational process behind the station itself, and to the connections established with the listening community.

Radio Ñomndaa, The Word of the Water in English, is an indigenous community radio station in the Mexican state of Guerrero. It was formed as part of the autonomous organizing of the Nanncue Ñomndaa (Amuzgo) people in the municipality of Suljaa’ (Xochistlahuaca). It is a worthy case study, given the underlying situation of media monopolies and the rights to the freedom of expression and information in Mexico.

See full article at:


Popular Communication in the MST
By Diego González

The MST, together with many other social organizations in Brazil, has spent a number of years highlighting the need for a serious discussion on the ownership of the media and its role. Nationwide, "fewer than 10 groups—made up of families or religious groups—control the major communication networks, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and web pages. The use of public concessions for media outlets as a source of income should be banned. Communication is not merchandise. It is a public service for the benefit of the people, as determined by the Brazilian Constitution, and cannot be subordinated to the logic of the free market."

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Obama’s Cartel Trust Busters
By Frontera NorteSur

On a whirl-wind tour of the Southwest late last week, senior members of the Obama administration laid out the White House’s strategy for border security, narcotics control, and immigration reform. And contrary to the expectations of some border residents and advocates who were betting on a new approach last January, the new administration’s strategic policy thrust mainly follows and even expands on the course long pursued by previous Democratic and Republican administrations. A solid alliance with the Calderon administration in Mexico City is a key component of the Obama border policy.

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