Category Archive: Guest Authors Blog Entries

With Victory, Morales and Social Movements Confront New Challenges in Bolivia

By Tanya Kerssen

Bolivian president Evo Morales and his political party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), won a resounding victory in the presidential elections this past Sunday, December 6. The nearest challengers, Manfred Reyes Villa and his running mate Leopoldo Fernández—whose current address is a La Paz prison, where he stands accused of ordering the murder of pro-government peasants —represent an old political and economic order that has used sedition and violence in an effort to obstruct and destabilize the Morales government.

The old order and the new are locked in a struggle for the future of Bolivia. “The social movements are critical for presidents to be able to create a new alternative,” declared Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca in the tropical city of Cochabamba in October at a summit of leftist Latin American presidents, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. At the parallel Social Movements Summit comprised of 700 delegates from 40 countries, Isaac Ávalos, leader of the Bolivian Peasants Federation promised to help “bury the opposition” in the election.

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Obama’s Challenge: Free Trade

By Adam Sgrenci

This weekend the fifth Summit of the Americas convenes in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, bringing together 34 heads of state in the Western Hemisphere. Leading the U.S. delegation, President Obama needs to break with the failed policies of the Bush administration that alienated most of the governments of Latin America during the first decade of this century.

Obama has engaged Latin America from the start of his presidency. Even before his inauguration he held a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss U.S.-Mexican border issues.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the White House in March, telling Obama he had a “unique” chance to transform relations with Latin America. Though Lula stressed the importance of lifting the economic embargo on Cuba, his main concerns were with bilateral trade relations between the biggest nation state of the southern hemisphere and the “colossus of the North.” It is likely that Obama will concede to Lula’s requests and lower U.S. tariffs on imports of bio-fuels. This would represent a step away from the hypocrisy of U.S.-Latin American trade relations in which the United States demanded open markets throughout the region but then protected its own.

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Obama in Latin America: Got Hope?

Adam Sgrenci

Since his election in early November, the support for Barack Obama has rallied much anticipation with regards to a new kind of politics. On his inauguration day, we demand he stand by his word. In Latin America, US foreign policy has failed miserably. Predatory free trade agreements, a militarized policy apparatus, and the restriction of outspoken leftist leaders to the fringes of our policy-making has stirred the ire of anti-Americanism like never before.

Students, researchers, activists and civic leaders of US-Latin American foreign policy, can only speculate on what is to come as they try to forget the past. Bush’s promise to establish a more participatory relationship with Latin America was never kept. After his inauguration in 2001, he spoke enthusiastically about a  ‘Century of the Americas’ – to ‘build a western hemisphere of freedom and prosperity, a hemisphere bound together by shared ideas and free trade from the Arctic to the Andes to Cape Horn.’  But after 9/11, Bush overlooked Latin America almost entirely as he embarked upon the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

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