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Microfinance 2

Microfinance warms up and more from Latin American London
Our July 20 newsletter on Microfinance has sparked a lively debate. Despite what we felt to be a balanced overview from former LAB staff-member Marcela López Levy (Read more), we received some strong criticism for having presented far too rosy a picture of the benefits of microcredit. So we invited Milford Bateman, one of the most prominent and influential critics of the system, to respond (Read more). His well-documented, but polemical piece spurred a number of replies (see the Comments at the foot of his article), including Guest responses from LAB’s Mike Gatehouse (“More measured judgement needed”), followed by Milford Bateman’s riposte (“Comments of ‘A Guest’ are empty and unsubstantiated”) and LAB’s Claudia Pompa (“It’s just simply sad to see the author saying…”).
This week we publish two further contributions: an article by Moushumi Khan, one of the directors of BRAC, the huge Bangladeshi micro-credit and education NGO (Read more); and a debate between two Bolivian commentators, featured on the website of World Bank based CGAP (Read more).

LAB welcomes reasoned and vigorous debate. We hope that when our new website is launched (see below for more details), such discussion will become a regular feature of the themes we follow. It should also become easier for readers to submit their comments and these will no longer be attributed obscurely to ‘A Guest’.

We have more news of Latin Americans living in London: interviews with Eliane Correa of dynamic Cuban-Latin group Wara (Read more) and with Cuban film-maker Eva Tarr-Kirkhope, founder of the London Latin American Film Festival, now in its 22nd season (Read more).

In other news
Paraguaythe government has lifted restrictions on the planting and consumption of transgenic corn and cotton. Campaigners are targeting Monsanto, the main producer of GM seed (Read more).
ColombiaThe Nasa people of Cauca have been attempting to assert their own autonomy, both from the government and from the FARC, and to recover control of their own territory and culture (Read more). Meanwhile, the former director of Jesuit think-tank CINEP, Alejandro Angulo Novoa, argues that the economic dice are now stacked against peace: wealthy individuals have too much to lose by any redistribution of land; while wealthy corporations and the government will not give up the juicy revenues from new mining and oil concessions, whatever the social cost. (Read more).

Coming soon
Argentina: Monsanto is once more in the news, with the outcome of the court case on pesticide harm to local people and the environment in Ituzaingo. We expect to post a news piece on this as soon as the outcome is clear. Watch out for it!

Future newsletter themes, on which we are working, include:
·         The Venezuelan elections
·         Inequality
·         Mining

LAB’s new website
Throughout this year, thanks to support from OXFAM, LAB has been working with designer Robin Taylor of Original Zero Ltd to design a radically improved website. We hope to launch it in the first weeks of September. Robin has produced a beautiful and functional design which will make it much easier to post, search for and read articles by theme and country; promote contributions from partners and commentators; increase the amount of photos video and audio recordings; and greatly increase our readership via automatic links to Facebook and Twitter. All our existing content will be transferred to the new site, but we are confident that it will be much, much easier to find things and to pursue interest in particular themes and countries.
Keep your eye out for the launch—this will not just be a new-look LAB: it will be a LAB better prepared to communicate on behalf of our Latin American partners and, hopefully, much more useful to all our readers.