The Humpday Brief

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A midweek round up of Latin American News

Political Flack and Support: The Chilean Citizen is a Critical One,

Chilean Protests: Nurturing the Politicians of the Future and “New Type of Citizen”

These are the largest protests since the call for Pinochet to step down.  A more ‘critical citizenry,’ willing to challenge a government of political consensus is emerging.  Chileans demand improvements in the quality, not solely the quantity of Chilean institutions and social services.

Camila Vallejo, a charismatic 23 year-old nose pierced rebel punk, emerges as one of the main leaders of the ongoing student protests demanding massive increases in government spending to improve a less than equal education system.  She and many of her colleagues may represent the next generation’s political leaders focused on critically challenging the performance of the government in ensuring opportunities for its citizens, rather than accepting political compromise meant to appease the elite.

Although the government agreed “to amend Chile’s constitution to include a guarantee of quality education and cutting interest rates on student loans from 6.4% to 2%, [in addition to] the promise of an extra 1.9 trillion Chilean pesos (£2.5bn) in education spending,” they have been unable to quell the uprising

In the words of Vallejo, “here we have more than 50m pesos worth of tear gas. Imagine how much was used on the regional or the national level? This is inacceptable, we want to reiterate our demand that we made to the minister of the interior that he step aside.”

Bolivia: Stay out, but give me more

Marches move from all sides:  Morales under fire from the Amazon to the Sierra.  The tide of indigenous peasant marches swells, covering multiple parts of the Andean nation.

In the low lands, a collection of Indigenous peasant organizations gathered in a 300+ mile march, in defiance of the President’s desire to construct a road through the TIPNIS Autonomous National Reserve.  However, many “CSUTCB cocalero leaders who support the road have threatened to organize counter-mobilizations to block the march along the way.”

Meanwhile, in the mining city of Potosi, protestors are demanding more.  “A broad coalition of cooperative miners, peasant associations, and indigenous groups led by the civic organization COMCIPO held a massive demonstration to protest the government’s lack of progress in implementing the regional economic agenda agreed to last August, following a 19-day civic strike.”

Their demands include the odd international airport, cement factory, metal processing plant, resolution on an “inter-departmental boundary dispute with neighboring Oruro, and the preservation of Cerro Rico.”

Foreign Policy: Lending a Hand to Gadhafi as Many Move on

Santos and Rousseff: Casting Aside four Decades of Autocracy

Colombia and Brazil have broken ties with Gaddafi’s representative at their Libyan embassies and have declared “full solidarity with the ongoing efforts under the leadership of the [National Transition Council] NTC.”

Chavez, Corea, Ortega: Condemning Imperialism

All three leaders continue to support the ghost of Gaddafi’s regime in what they see as a typical display of Western interventionism.  As for the rebels: merely agents of imperial ambition.

“We recognize only one government: the one led by Moammar Gadhafi,” said Chavez, speaking during a televised address.  “Without a doubt, we’re facing imperial madness.”

Ortega went so far as to offer Gaddafi asylum.  He might blend in nicely among the other expats residing in Granada.

Iran and Venezuela: Petrochemical Brothers

Agreed to commence joint construction on a number of petrochemical plants.

Society and Economy: More Rights, More Deals

Peru: Expansion of Asian Trade and Law of Consultation

Peru engaged in more dialogue with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other Asian economic communities with the goal of deepening ties and encouraging investment.  Much of this investment will most likely be in Peru’s hydrocarbons, minerals and metals (M&Ms), and other things that explosively expanding industrial powers crave.

Meanwhile, congress passed the Law of Consultation, which seeks to strength the power of rural communities to challenge mining and other extractive projects that threaten their homes.  The law would give these communities the opportunity to bargain directly with international corporations and the like.  While Garcia had revoked past approval of this law, expressing concern that it would discourage investment and hence ruin Peru’s ten year economic boom, many argue that creating a peaceful forum for investors and locals will end the instability caused by bloody confrontations.  So far, 100 people have been killed in clashes. Therefore, this initiative may foster a better investment environment over the long-term.

Argentina:  Falling Unemployment Statistics Shadows Reality

According to the argentine government, unemployment fell from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent in the month of July.  But Cristina Fernandez is boasting hollow numbers that don’t represent the true condition of the argentine labor force. While official unemployment may have fallen, this figure does not take into account the more than 25 percent of the labor force engaged in the informal economy. Another pointer: these statistics may be bogus all together.  Fernandez’s administration is no novice book cooker.

Furthermore, “The government has forecast economic growth for the full year of 8.2%. That follows 9.2% growth in 2010.”

Commodity Seesaw: Corn and Soy Beans

According to Bloomberg,

“Although soybeans will still remain the dominant crop in terms of acreage, we expect a slowing down of the growth,” Oil World said. “The biggest expansion is likely to occur in corn. This year soybeans are facing greater competition not only from grains but also from other oilseeds.”

“The total grain area in Argentina will rise 7.5 percent to 13.3 million hectares as oilseed planting climbs 3 percent to 21.7 million hectares, Oil World said. Brazil’s grain seeding will rise 3.5 percent to 20.5 million hectares and the oilseed area will expand 2.2 percent to 26.5 million hectares, it said.”

Bolivia’s S & P credit rating promoted to “Kinda investment Grade”

Mr. and Mrs. S & P give ol’ Bolivia a B+, its highest grade yet, but still four steps below investment-grade status.

In general, Morales’ administration has pulled off three things very well.  According to S& P, “[Bolivia] developed a track record of prudent macroeconomic policies that support moderate economic growth with steady inflation,” while reducing public debt as a percentage of GDP.

Export growth in combination with significant foreign investment in infrastructure and industry has improved the credit rating of this once debt laden nation.  Recently, Bolivia received a $2.1 billion investment by India’s Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. in what might become one of the largest iron ore mines in the world.

However, and this is a big however, the nations’ overall infrastructure still resembles that of Afghanistan.

Underworld: Favoritism, State of Emergency

Mexico: Everybody’s Favorite Cartel

Mexicans and Americans alike are raising concerns that their governments’ have been favoring certain cartels, such as  Sinaloa over Los Zetas.  With so much focus on the increasing power of Los Zetas – the former enforcement arm of Gulf Cartel made up of deserters from Mexico’s Special Forces – enforcement efforts have seemed to favor the more well-established and in fact larger Sinaloa Federation.  One reason may be the sheer amount of mass killings committed by Los Zetas, which implies a lack of control on the part of the Mexican government.  Mexico is prioritizing the organization that is perceived to pose the largest threat to society.

Another morsel of thought: Sinaloa prefers to bribe officials, while Los Zetas fancy them in body bags.

Trinidad and Tobago: State of Emergency

At midnight on Monday, Trinidad and Tobago declared a state of emergency following a weekend crime spree (20-21 Agust), that left 11 people dead.  The declaration is responding to the growing prevalence of organized crime in this impoverish Caribbean nation.

“40 criminal gangs operated in Trinidad & Tobago in 2004, this figure has since risen to 86 according to official government estimates. The country’s homicide rate has surged from 19.79 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004 to 37.79 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009, according to the most recent figures cited in the 2011 Organization of American States (OAS) ‘Report on Citizen Security in the Americas.’”