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Ecuador Newsletter

LAB’s new book ‘K’ is published
‘K’ is a moving novel and memoir of the agonised search of a Brazilian father for his daughter, disappeared and murdered by the Brazilian armed forces during the military dictatorship in 1974. The author, Bernardo Kucinski, (whose father and sister are the subject of the book) arrives in Britain and will be speaking at the Centre for Latin American Studies in Cambridge on March 1, at Jewish Book Week in London on March 3, and a seminar at Kings College, London on March 4. (Read more). This is LAB’s first new publication for several years. Meanwhile our long-term best seller, Faces of Latin America, by Duncan Green, has been updated by Sue Branford and published in its fourth edition by Monthly Review Press. Both books can be ordered from Central Books.

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ECUADOR: Comfortable victory, challenging times

Rafael Correa’s convincing victory (57.6% of the vote at the latest count) gives him a third consecutive term of office. The full voting results can be read here. His nearest rival, Guillermo Lasso, the candidate of the right-wing Creo coalition, managed only 22.4%, while former President Lucio Gutierrez was third with 6.24%. LAB contributing editor Grace Livingstone was in Quito as an election observer and describes the mood on the streets in the lead-up to the election (Read more). Votes for parties of the radical left and indigenous groups had disappointing results, as analysed in detail by Mark Becker (Read more) and Pablo Espina (Read more). CONAIE, the confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, issued a surprisingly conciliatory statement after the election, wishing Correa luck and stating “we hope that he complies with transcendent issues such as the water law, the agrarian law, the democratization and socialization of the economy, and the protection and halt to the exploitation of oil fields in Yasuní ITT” (Read more).

Correa represents a centre left which shares some of the ideology and social policies of the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. All, to varying degrees, face the common dilemma of how to finance progress in health and education and reduce their countries’ glaring inequalities. All have found themselves relying on ‘brown left’ policies of promoting extractive industries (mining, oil and gas, hydro-electric dams, mono-crops such as soya) which threaten the environment and encroach on the territory and integrity of indigenous communities. A typical example concerns the licensing of the Mirador open case copper mine in an area in Ecuador’s upper Amazon region, as described for LAB by David Dene of Protect Ecuador (Read more). Correa himself is frank about this in a fascinating interview with New Left Review (Read more).

Correa has faced stern criticism from both right and left. The right accuses him of dictatorial tendencies, not least for measures to regulate the press. This, and the effects on press coverage of the presidential elections of recent reforms to the country’s electoral law, are discussed by Erin Woycik of International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) (Read more). However, all discussion of press freedom in Latin America, argues Renaud Lambert, Deputy Editor ofLe Monde Diplomatique, needs to examine the monopoly ownership of the press and media (Read more).

LAB Blogs

LAB Editor Javier Farje is currently travelling in the region. From Puerto Rico, where his first fascinating post covers the thorny issue of the island’s independence and the toxic legacy of US military activity in Vieques (Read more), Javier has travelled on to Venezuela. Watch for further posts in the coming days about that country’s future with or without Chavez and developments in Argentina, where Javier’s tour will finish. Francis McDonagh, meanwhile, has been in Belém, from where he posted another chronicle of his journey (Read more). You can now access LAB’s Blogs page directly from the menu strip at the head of our home page.

In Other News

Land disputes:  Meanwhile, LAB Editor Francis McDonagh is keeping an eye on Paraguay in advance of a visit in March, and describes the killing of a rural leader who opposed the monoculture of soya (Read more). News has reached LAB from Brazil of another killing of a young indigenous man by a landowner in Mato Grosso do Sul in a dispute over local fishing rights, which has sparked a massive protest by Guarani-Kaiowá Indians (Read more). And, as LAB contributing editor Jan Rocha reports, the demand from China for agricultural and forest land and produce, minerals, mines and smelters and the electricity to power them threatens the future of the Amazon Basin (Read more). Finally, in Honduras the bitter conflict between voracious land-owners and peasants in Bajo Aguán has claimed two more victims (Read more).

Women: In Peruthe campaign against Susana Villarán, the first woman ever to be elected mayor of Lima will be decided by a vote on March 17. Recent polls suggest her support is increasing and has almost drawn level with that for the coalition of entrenched interests demanding her recall (Read more). Meanwhile, in Cuba, despite considerable gains in previous decades, new economic policies are likely to reduce the representation of women in the workforce, says SEMLAC (Read more).

Coffee: Central American coffee farmers face devastating declines in their harvest as the Roya disease decimates their bushes (Read more). In Colombia, meanwhile, farmers have blocked roads in 12 departments to demand  government action to subsidise prices and protect the industry  (Read more).

Guatemala: The international backing for the war crimes perpetrated by Rios Montt and others must be exposed. (Read more).

ColombiaNGOs in the country have denounced the way in which the large mining corporations undermine local democracy by offering development incentives and planning gain, real or illusory, to selected communities and politicians, in return for prospecting licences and concessions (Read more).

BoliviaEconomic growth and reductions in inequality offer lessons even for the US, argues NACLA (Read more).

HaitiAccording to a BBC report, the UN has refused claims for compensation from victims of the cholera epidemic and their families, despite strong evidence that the disease was brought to the island by UN personnel. The international body says it is immune from such claims under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN.