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Chile erupts: … no peace for the rich — LAB Newsletter October 2019

In addition to our website, LAB’s Facebook page provides a daily stream of summaries and links to articles published elsewhere. In this and future newsletters we may mention some of these, with the rubric ‘Read FB’ to distinguish them from posts on LAB’s website.

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LAB has so much to do. There is a real buzz: a constant stream of articles coming in from our partners and correspondents; books to commission, edit, publish and promote (The Past is an Imperfect Tense by Bernardo Kucinski; Crossed Off the Map – Bolivia and the World byShafik Meghji; Mexico Inside Out by Nick Caistor; The Heart of Our Earth – Community Resistance to Mining in Latin America by Tom Gatehouse); our longer term mega-project: The Book of the Amazon; developments to our website (more podcasts and video; a special section on Mining; supplementary on-line chapters for Voices of Latin America on land, climate change and the Amazon); continuing and expanding this newsletter; responding to the stream of emails from wonderfully talented volunteers, and supporting them to research and write for us.

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Chile in flames

An abrupt hike in fares on the Santiago metro sparked a wave of protests, police and army repression on a scale not witnessed since the period of the Pinochet dictatorship. Millionaire businessman president Sebastian Piñera seems to have been caught completely off guard. He responded with arrogant disdain and rapid recourse to repressive measures (a state of emergency in Santiago and putting troops on the street) which merely served to incense the protestors. At the time of writing at least 11 people had been killed, as army and police used live ammunition. ‘We are at war’, said Piñera.

Graphic images sent to LAB on WhatsApp show the scale of the protests (Read more…). One of the clearest placards reads ‘It’s not the tube fares. It’s Health. It’s Education. It’s Pensions. It’s Housing. It’s the salaries of members of parliament. It’s the electricity price rises. It’s the price of Petrol. It’s the robbery by the Armed Forces. It’s the amnesty for businessmen. It’s the dignity of a whole society.’

For more information see up-to-date reports listed on LAB’s Facebook page, including one from Alborada exploring the origins of the protests (Read more…). We hope to have an update from Arica, in northern Chile, in the next few days.

For a more peaceful view of Chile, look for the Caravana de Las Danzas, and the book Cuentos tradicionales chilenos en la region del Maule by former secretary of Chile Committee for Human Rights, Wendy Tyndale (Read more…)

Climate change

Greta Thunberg’s journey to New York for the UN Climate Action summit had an extraordinary impact. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had already attacked her, while others shamefully disparaged her mental health. This led a distinguished roll call of Brazilian health academics and professionals to speak out against this hateful discrimination. Read the original here or the English translation here.

In New York, a number of indigenous leaders from the Amazon were present to lobby and speak at climate action events. Linda Etchart (author of the Voices chapter on indigenous peoples) interviewed a number of them for LAB (Read more…). There will be more articles following this subject in the next few days. Readers with a strong stomach can watch Bolsonaro’s speech (dubbed into English) to the UN General Assembly (Watch here…)

LAB correspondent Rachel Simon analysed the Climate Change and Land report of the IPCC, published in August, which stresses the crucial role in climate change played by land and the way humanity makes use of it (Read more…)

The Amazon

The focus on Brazil of the global coverage of the recent Amazon fires has neglected the fact that Bolivia has suffered a similar catastrophe. Over the last two months, some 2.4 million hectares of the country have burned, almost half of which is forest. At least six people have died and around 2,000 families have been affected. Hundreds of animals also perished. The fires bring to the fore the need for Bolivia – and other countries – to change its economic model and abandon the focus on extraction, crop yields and cattle production (Read more…).

As we write this newsletter, an important Synod on the Amazon is drawing to its conclusion in Rome. Convened by Pope Francis, it has involved priests, nuns, lay people and NGOs from the whole Amazon Basin. Preparations and consultation over several years were co-ordinated by REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Church Network (Read more…)

Brazil

Former president Lula, now in prison in Curitiba for alleged corruption, has given several interviews recently. One, published in Le Monde, was translated for LAB by Francis McDonagh. LAB added a critical postscript, noting that Lula seemed little disposed to acknowledge any errors by the PT or to analyse the reasons for their defeat (Read more…).

Colombia – no farewell to arms

In September, the former second-in-command of the FARC, Iván Márquez, announced that sections of the FARC would return to armed struggle, citing the ongoing killings by paramilitaries of former FARC members, social movement activists and human rights defenders. The FARC leadership promptly disowned him. Nevertheless the implications for the peace process are serious, as Rodrigo Acuña documents for LAB (Read more…).

From the Valle del Cauca, Chocó, in north-western Colombia, LAB partner Christian Aid and the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace (CIJP) share the views of AfroColombian and Indigenous communities experiencing an upsurge in violence from ELN, FARC dissidents and paramilitaries closely linked to the drugs trade. They too blame the government for failure to implement most of the peace accords (Read more…). Christian Aid’s Thomas Mortensen takes a close look at the government’s decision to resume aerial spraying to eradicate coca crops – which is demonstrably more expensive, less effective and more environmentally harmful than crop substitution (Read more…).

Mining

From Mexico, Peruvian anthropologist Marcela Torres-Wong documents the successful 2005 struggle of an indigenous community from Capulálpam de Méndez, Oaxaca, to stop Canadian company Continuum Resources expanding a gold mine that threatened their livelihoods and water supply (Read more…). The FLACSO-Mexico and De Montfort University, Leicester, UK team that has carried out this research will help LAB with our mining book project (see below). Two more articles in the near future will look at what happened to neighbouring communities.

While we wait for further funding to continue research and complete LAB’s next major book, The Heart of Our Earth – Community Resistance to Mining in Latin America, by Tom Gatehouse, we have launched two short-term funding appeals. The first invites individuals to become ‘patrons’ of the book, if they are able to make a substantial donation. (Read more and donate here…) Soon we will launch a Crowdfunding appeal which will offer donors a range of rewards. Please support us if you can.

Latin Americans in the UK

Bolivian journalist Sergio Mendoza writes about the number one problem for Latin Americans living in the UK – their lack of fluency in English. The community’s problems have been exhaustively studied by a Queen Mary College, University of London team headed by LAB Council member Cathy McIlwaine (Read more…).

Voices of Latin America and Amazon Besieged events

LAB gave a talk at the Crickhowell Literary Festival on 29 September. Editor Tom Gatehouse, who grew up and went to school in the area, introduced Voices of Latin America, with Brecon-based Claudia Orellana (from Chile) and Cardiff-based actor Kristoffer Huball reading the voices of four of the social activists interviewed in the book (Read more…).

There will be a further Voices event at Talk Shop, at Hereford’s Left Bank, on 6 November, while Sue Branford will be speaking about Amazon Besieged in a talk entitled: ‘The Brazilian Amazon – Can it survive four years of Bolsonaro?’ at the Latin America Adelante 2019 conference at Friends House, London on 23 November.

If you would like to organize a LAB-book event or panel discussion, please contact us at: voices@lab.org.uk

Cartoneras

Nick Caistor went to the Cartonera Book Festival held to celebrate the grassroots ‘Cartonera’ publishers movement from Latin America. Many Cartonera books can be seen at London University Senate House Library (Read more…).

…and so much we missed

The pace of events in Latin America is dizzying. To our shame, we have been unable to cover important developments this month in Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. But if you value LAB’s work, that’s another strong argument to help us so that we can do more in future. Please donate here.

Best wishes,

The LAB Team

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