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LAB Newsletter November 2016

16 November 2016 Dear LAB Supporter and Friend,

LAB needs funds

Sadly, our most recent funding application was unsuccessful. We had applied to the Open Society Foundations to back our Speaking Out project, to promote English language translation of articles by independent Latin American journalists. We planned to work in collaboration with Agencia Pública in São Paulo and other similar groups in Argentina, Peru and Guatemala or Mexico. We will still pursue funding for this project. Meanwhile, however, LAB’s funds are running perilously low and we have no office or paid staff, relying entirely on volunteers. Thanks to one generous individual donation of £9,000 we were able to embark on our Voices project (see below), but even to complete this we will need further funding. Please consider donating to LAB. It’s easy on-line at the Charities Aid Foundation donation page. If you can sign up to gift aid your donation, it is worth even more to LAB.


As you will know, Colombia narrowly (50.2%) rejected the Peace Accords in a plebiscite on 2 October where the real winners were the abstentions (63%). It’s back to the drawing board, with both the FARC and President Santos committed to maintaining the ceasefire and revising some of the more contentious items in the detail of the agreement. The latter made an official state visit to London (the first ever for a Colombian President). Members of the large Colombian community in London staged a colourful demonstration in Trafalgar Square under the banner Paz a la Calle, in support of the peace process. LAB’s Gwen Burnyeat was there to chronicle the event. (Read more…)


The slow burn of discredit continues as the Lava Jato scandal refuses to be buried and Eduardo Cunha, former speaker of the lower house in Congress and partial architect of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, was arrested on October 24, on the orders of judge Sergio Moro. Moro appears to be circling other members of the PMDB, including Renan Calheiros, president of the Senate. Congressional business was suspended, creating serious delays in Acting President Temer’s ambitious legislative programme, attempting to undo the PT’s progressive measures and impose a 20-year moratorium on government spending. LAB’s Jan Rocha takes the febrile temperature of the country (Read more…) One profitable area for corruption and mismanagement, linked indirectly to Lava Jato, has been Brazil’s ambitious aid and investment programmes in Africa, especially in Mozambique and Angola, with financing from BNDES and prominent roles for companies such as Vale and Odebrecht. Marina Amaral and Natalia Viana, correspondents for LAB’s São Paulo partner Agencia Pública, examine the record (Read more…) Meanwhile, LAB’s Jan Rocha composed a moving tribute to Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns on his 95th birthday, the churchman who had the courage to stand up to the military (Read more…)


Belize is a country largely forgotten despite its British connections and, especially, the dominant business role there of Lord Ashcroft, major donor and former deputy chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party. LAB’s Rachel Simon has been in Punta Gorda, a remote area on the Caribbean coast, close to the border with Guatemala. She visited Maya and Garifuna communities to learn of their problems with over-zealous government conservation rules which threaten their traditional livelihoods while being mysteriously waived in favour of oil exploration companies (Read more…). She spoke to the national teachers union, BNTU, who have been on strike, not just for better salaries, but against government corruption (Read more…). A third post to her blog will be added soon.


Argentina under the Kirchners: the Legacy of Left Populism, LAB’s latest Special Report, by Marcela López Levy, will be published in January 2017. At 25,000 words it will be rather longer than the first two reports in the series (Brazil Under the Workers’ Party and The Nicaraguan Grand Canal), both of which are still available. The beautiful Rosa of the Wild Grass, the Story of a Nicarguan Family, by Fiona Macintosh, remains our strongest seller. It would make an ideal Christmas present for friends and family, so order your copies now. All LAB books are now available from Practical Action Publishing (Click here to see the complete catalogue).


It’s a busy time at LAB. We are embarked on our most ambitious book project for some years: to publish a new title to supplement our long-serving and very successful introductory text Faces of Latin America by Duncan Green, originally published in 1992 and now in its 4th Edition, updated by Sue Branford. We have decided on a new format, to be based around extended interviews or testimonies from members of communities and social movements involved directly in campaigns and conflicts. The book will be organised by chapters on particular themes such as Indigenous Communities, Violence Against Women, Mining and Extraction, Gender politics, new forms of social movement and the role of artists, etc. LAB researchers are hard at work gathering the interviews: Rachel Simon has been in Belize, Louise Morris in Honduras, Fiona Macintosh in Nicaragua and Linda Etchart in Ecuador. Tom Gatehouse and Nina Meghji are in Argentina and will be travelling on to Chile and Bolivia. David Lehmann is also in Chile. Sue Branford and Ali Rocha will collect material in Brazil. If you have any ideas or suggestions for this project, please contact With best wishes, The LAB Team

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