Voices against the new populism – LAB Newsletter, March 2019

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Dear LAB Supporter and Friend,

27 March 2019

Voices versus the new populism

Alzira de Fátima Venâncio Barbosa, who lives by the Paraopebas River. Alzira’s income was dependent on the river, as she would fish and cook for fisherman. Photo: Rodrigo Zaim/Christian Aid

Voices of Latin America: LAB’s newest book was launched on 18 January in a packed-out event at RichMix in London. Over 60 copies of the book were sold. You can see details and order copies here. You can watch the launch meeting (including an important speech on Brazil by distinguished journalist Eliane Brum), here.

Voices is being co-published in the US by Monthly Review Press (details here…). It is being launched at The People’s Forum, Manhattan, New York, on Thursday 16 May, 6:30 – 8:30pm. Voices editor Tom Gatehouse will speak at the meeting.

Argentina: The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén, a major indigenous group in Argentina, has filed a criminal complaint against BP subsidiary Pan American Energy for illegally dumping toxic fracking waste in the ‘sensitive Patagonian environment (Read more…)

Mexico: Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now completed his first 100 days in office and claims to have carried out 62 out of 100 campaign promises. His MORENA (Movement for National Regeneration) party enjoys a comfortable majority in the lower house of Congress, but he knows that he has little time if he is to push through all the reforms and projects he has promised in the six years of his period in office.  Nick Caistor looks at the achievements and challenges ahead. (Read more…)

Not least of the problems looming is that of mega-projects, the great temptation for many an incoming president. In Mexico, the most conspicuous of these is the Tren Maya, a 1500 kilometre railway line which aims to link five states in Mexico’s poor south-east to boost tourism and local industry. AMLO has made it a high priority. However, social and indigenous groups, academics, fear that it will damage the region’s archaeological treasures and biodiversity. (Read more…)

That will not be the only conflictive issue for the new government. A project called ‘Talking to Goliath’ has mapped social and environmental conflicts across the length and breadth of Mexico since 2006, and found more than 800 of them, caused by the development, expansion or operation of mining, oil exploration and drilling, wind-power and hydroelectric projects. (Read more…)

Brazil: one of the best account of the threats to the Amazon is to be found in Amazon Besieged by dams, soya, agribusiness and land-grabbing, by Mauricio Torres and Sue Branford, launched on 1 December 2018. (Details here…)

To the threats should be added, or course, the government of Jair Bolsonaro. New government, same old problems. Corruption scandals continue with seven of the 22 members of Bolsonaro’s new cabinet facing charges of corruption, fraud, or trafficking influence. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio, is being investigated for potential links to a death squad militia and third son, Eduardo has appointed himself Brazil’s unofficial foreign minister, with frequent trips to the USA to meet Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon. LAB’s incomparable Jan Rocha recounts the horrors. (Read more…)

Bolsonaro’s promised onslaught against indigenous rights and land is already under way: the new Minister of Mines and Energy announced plans to permit mining on indigenous lands, including within the Amazon basin, and up to Brazil’s borders, in clear breach of the constitution. Indigenous groups vowed to fight back.  (Read more…)

Seventy percent of the power used in the Brazilian state of Roraima comes from the Venezuela’s Guri hydroelectric dam. With the situation in Venezuela and deteriorating political relations between the two countries, Brazil’s Bolsonaro government claims national security concerns must prevail and has announced plans to build a 750 kilometre (466 mile) powerline from Manaus to Boa Vista, passing right across the Waimiri Atroari reserve indigenous reserve. (Read more…)

On 25 January, a huge tailings dam at the Feijão iron ore mine, near Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, collapsed suddenly and catastrophically. The mine belongs to Brazilian mining giant Vale, already implicated in the catastrophic dam collapse at Bento Rodrigues on 5 November 2015. The resulting wave of toxic sludge at Brumadinho engulfed part of the mine workings, a packed workers’ canteen, and rushed down into the Paraopeba river, washing away houses, cattle, mine personnel and people living close to the river banks. As at 21 March, the number of bodies identified stood at 212, with a further 93 still missing. LAB partner Christian Aid, which is working with MAB (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – Movement of People Affected by Dams) put together a stark gallery of photos (View here…), while the BBC compiled a graphic photo-story (View here…)

LAB correspondent Marilene Ribeiro, who was the photo-editor and a chapter author for Voices of Latin America, has written a book and curated an exhibition called: Dead Water: communities affected by hydroelectric dams, conveying the voices of riverine people. (Read more…)

Chile: In 2015, Radio Aukan, a community radio station collective which reports on topics like indigenous rights and the environment, was raided by police who seized its equipment and arrested Francisco Orellana for allegedly broadcasting without a licence. The incident is described in a first post in a new Press Freedom Blog by Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) (Read more…)

Venezuela: In a situation so highly polarised, reporting tends to stray into open propaganda. LAB was pleased to publish a blog post from long-term Venezuela resident Lisa Sullivan, charting the daily struggle for food in a rural community and the promise, threat and illusion of the humanitarian aid. (Read more…)

There have been a number of voices warning of the dangers of intervention. Leading Venezuelan economist Victor Álvarez made a proposal to the EU and ICRC, calling for peaceful coexistence and cohabitation in government of the forces which are now in conflict.  (Read more…).

Meanwhile, Charles Beach, in Cúcuta, witnessed Richard Branson’s concert and the halting of the aid convoy. (Read more…)

Best wishes,

The LAB Team

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