April 27, 2006
Last week I wrote about Jorge Castaneda’s article in Foreign Policy magazine, Latin America’s Left Turn. This article looked at the two types of leftist groups in Latin America. At one point I went off on a diatribe about human rights abuses in Colombia, which still has a rightist government. Apparently I have much more to say on the matter.
In March, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC) killed up to 20 civilians in two separate attacks using gas cylinder bombs. There is a lot of fear that the violence will increase with presidential elections are a month away. Despite promising in the past to abstain from targeting civilians, FARC continues to violate human rights and international humanitarian law.
As some background information to the situation in Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe was elected a couple of years ago because he promise to apply military pressure on the FARC and other criminal groups. The FARC is one of the oldest revolutionary groups caught in a civil war with the country for the past 40 years. FARC has historically identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization. Though, this form of thinking gave way in the 1970s among other Latin American movements.
The group has always claimed to represent the rural poor in the countryside and continues to oppose influence and interference from the U.S., privatization of natural resources and multinational corporations. The FARC has managed to grab power in Colombia through an armed struggle. They control about 40% of the countryside.
April 22, 2006
President George W. Bush marked Earth Day by highlighting the use of technology to reduce the U.S.’s dependency on foreign oil. Reuters reported Bush toured the California Fuel Cell Partnership in Sacramento and promoted the use of hydrogen fuel cells to change the way cars are powered. These cells wouldn’t emit pollution and would be more efficient than gas-powered cars.
“By developing these and other new sources of clean renewable energy like ethanol, we will continue growing our economy, reduce energy prices and protect our environment, and make America less dependent on foreign oil,” – Bush said in his weekly radio address.
While environmentalists welcomed Bush’s focus on fuel-cell technology, experts argue that fuel-cell vehicles would not be available for mass use for another 20-30 years. Roland Hwang, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned against selling a promising long-term solution as “a quick fix” for political cover. In other Earth Day news….. oil prices continue to increase, capping at $75 a barrel on Friday. This comes courtesy of increasing tensions over Iran’s quest for nuclear capacity. The energy plan Bush wants Congress to pass, which would also boost federal research into batteries for hybrid and electric cars and renewable fuels, does not include any measures that would reduce pump costs in the short term. Call me cynical…all this happy news on the environment sounds like a lot of smoke and mirrors. Can this administration stop being influenced by the powerful oil industry? Bush’s father was part of the team that built the oil wells in Kuwait in the 1950s. Back when nobody knew where the Middle East was and nobody cared. I think something has to be done to reign in huge corporations. They are the negative aspect of globalization. Wielding more economic power than many governments, multinational corporations are significant contributors in the global struggle for human rights. All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations, but all too often they are contributing to human rights abuses – either directly or indirectly. More so, they’re commitment to social responsibility and accountability is a lot of double-speak. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19, 2006
An AP article in today’s Washington Post reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has promised his government will blow up his country's oil fields if the United States should ever attack.
“Speaking to other South American leaders, Chavez said his conflict with Washington is rooted in the U.S. thirst to control oil. He said the Americans will be denied that in Venezuela, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and one of the biggest suppliers to the U.S. market.”
This came in answer to speculation of plans to get Chavez out of office. Of course, U.S. officials denied such plans against Chavez, but also call him a threat to stability in the region. Everyone's a threat to stability in some region, except the U.S. Bush is making sure his country is a threat to the world.
While the U.S. calls Chavez a threat to stability and continues to talk about Latin America’s turn to the left, there doesn’t seem to be much attention paid to how there are two different types of ‘leftist’ parties in the region. An article in the May/June 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs gives us more insight.
Jorge Castaneda’s Latin America’s Left Turn examines how one type of ‘left’ has radical roots but is modern, while the other remains populist. Instead of focusing on Chavez’s rants, the US should look at fostering a relationship with the modern left. Let's look at the recent events and trends in Latin America:
"Starting with Hugo Chávez's victory in Venezuela eight years ago and poised to culminate in the possible election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico's July 2 presidential contest, a wave of leaders, parties, and movements generically labeled "leftist" have swept into power in one Latin American country after another. After Chávez, it was Lula and the Workers' Party in Brazil, then Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, and then, earlier this year, Evo Morales in Bolivia. If the long shot Ollanta Humala wins the April presidential election in Peru and López Obrador wins in Mexico, it will seem as if a veritable left-wing tsunami has hit the region.”