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December 12, 2008 Weblog:

From Palmira, Colombia: Sugar cane country

I'm currently in Palmira, Colombia, interviewing and spending time with sugar cane cutters and their families. Yesterday, I attended a meeting with cutters who are members of the co-operatives which cut the cane. Co-operative is definitely not a positive word here, as their formation facilitates sub-contracting and relieves employers of any responsibility for their workers.

During yesterday's meeting, the participants discussed the resistance movement that they have been mounting over the last three years, which culminated in a 58 day strike that ended in November.

While the meeting was going on, two cane cutters were killed by lightning bolts nearby.

December 10, 2008 Weblog:

Visit to the Nasa Project


I spent yesterday visiting the Nasa project, and have uploaded some photos online.

December 7, 2008 Weblog:

Fighting and paramilitary threats in Cauca

An urgent communique just went out from the ACIN because of fighting between FARC and the Colombian army, which is taking place in the town of Miranda, Cauca. The communique notes that "The criminal combat is taking place among and inside the houses of Indigenous people."

Also this morning in Miranda, the paramilitary group Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) had leaflets passed around that read:

Las Águilas Negras Presente.
Limpieza Social para el bien de todos

The Black Eagles are Here.
Social cleansing for the benefit of all

More information will follow as it becomes available.

December 6, 2008 Weblog:

Commemorating 80 years after the Banana Massacre in Colombia


Today is the 80th anniversary of the Banana Massacre in Ciénaga, Colombia. The workers began a strike against the company on November 12, 1928.

According to Eduardo Mahecha, who survived the massacre: "The deadly pistol and machine gun fire lasted 15 minutes, resulting in the death of 207 workers and 32 injured."

The banana operations at the time were controlled by the infamous United Fruit Company. Those responsible for the massacre were never brought to justice. The workers reorganized themselves and struck again in 1934, this time winning the concessions they sought.

Fans of Garcia Márquez may remember his portrayal of the massacre in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

What has changed in the last 80 years?

Armies and paramilitaries the world over are still in the service of transnational corporations (disturbingly, one of the most high profile cases-in-point is that of United Fruit's progeny Chiquita Brands' payments of paramilitaries in Colombia).

Workers movements are still portrayed as being linked with "dark forces," as was the recent strike by sugar cane workers in Colombia.

» continue reading "Commemorating 80 years after the Banana Massacre in Colombia"

December 6, 2008 Photo Essay

Indigenous Justice in Colombia

Traditional justice sentences kidnappers, restores faith in community and traditional authorities

December 3, 2008 Weblog:

From Colombia: Pyramid Schemes and the President


The word Pyrámide (Pyramid) is on the lips of people throughout Colombia after the collapse of over 250 unregulated pyramid schemes defrauded thousands of people their savings, and may also cost President Alvaro Uribe his chance at a third consecutive term in office.

While I was in Colombia in July, it was common to see people lining up for long stretches first thing in the morning to buy into the pyramids, which promised 150% interest to investors. The schemes were operating openly until their collapse in mid-November.

"It didn't occur to any juridical or 'intelligence' organization to infiltrate the line-ups, hand over the money, receive the dividend, and serve as proof of the scheme. The DAS (Department of Security Administration) and the Casa de Nari (Presidential Palace) are much too busy spying on politicians and journalists to waste their time investigating narco-trafficking money launderers and other scammers," reads a stinging column published in El Tiempo in March.

According to the Polo Democratico Alternativo, an opposition party, the pyramids have affected every aspect of the economy in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo. The total amount of money lost in the schemes is believed to be upwards of $250,000,000. Many Colombians took out loans in order to buy-in.

» continue reading "From Colombia: Pyramid Schemes and the President"

December 2, 2008 Weblog:

Notes from Bogotá: Update on the Canada - Colombia FTA

It's a cool day in Bogotá, but the rains that have plagued the country over the last month have abated, at least momentarily.

I met with Mario Valencia from RECALCA (Colombian Network for Action on Free Trade) this morning. Top of mind for him was the possibility that Harper's Conservatives are dethroned on December 8, which would likely mean that the FTA is shelved, at least for the time being.

Though I'm personally skeptical about the possibility of a coalition actually succeeding in taking power from the Conservatives, in my experience it's rare that something happening in Canadian politics actually interests folks outside the country.

Mario passed along this statement from Senator Jorge Robledo, which reads, in part (unofficial translation):

The consequences [of a Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement] are evident: 80% of what Colombia sells to Canada consists of coffee, coal, flowers and sugar, which is to say goods that do not require an agreement to get to the market. On the other hand, 23% of what [Colombia] buys from Canada are agricultural products, principally cereals and meat products, which will worsen the situation of national producers.

The FTA [between Colombia and] Canada seems to have been written by a mining company. Canada is known as a paradise for these types of corporation, like Colombia Goldfields Ltd, Coalcorp Mining Inc, and Frontier Pacific Mining Corporation, whose environmental impact is already well known.

» continue reading "Notes from Bogotá: Update on the Canada - Colombia FTA"

November 30, 2008 Features

World Bank Poster Child Gets Naughty

Politicians and protesters show their true mettle in Argentina

November 26, 2008 Agriculture

Peru's Farmers Demand Healthy Land

Criminalization of anti-mining dissent strengthens resolve

November 25, 2008 Original Peoples

Mining the Truth

A Canadian judge rules on indigenous land in Patagonia

November 23, 2008 Literature & Ideas

Copper Ore, Silver Screen

Under Rich Earth

November 19, 2008 Business

Small Flags in the Ground

Gold mining in Suriname's tribal communities

November 18, 2008 Foreign Policy

FOCAL Blasted for Ties to Mining Industry

Indigenous leaders pull out of mining workshops in Guatemala

November 17, 2008 Business

Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

Canadian companies will do anything for the big nickel in Guatemala

November 14, 2008 Opinion

The Steep Price of Power

Colombian coal fuels Atlantic Canada, but at what cost?

Violent Evictions at El Estor, Guatemala

In January 2007, hundreds of police and soldiers forcibly evicted the inhabitants of several communities situated on lands the Guatemalan military government granted Canadian mining interests in 1965. Backed by the army and the police, Canada’s Skye Resources paid workers to destroy people’s homes with chainsaws and torches.

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by rightsaction.org

All That Glitters Isn't Gold

This report tells the stories of community members residing near Goldcorp's San Martin open-pit gold mine in Honduras' Siria Valley. San Martin was the first mine to be developed under Honduras' controversial new mining law that was passed in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. It was opened in 2000 and is the largest open-pit heap-leach mine in Honduras.

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by rightsaction.org

The Real Costs of Gold Mining

In 2007, a film maker travelled to the Siria Valley in Honduras to interview locals about the impact of gold mining on their lives and communities. He produced this short documentary. In it, people of the Siria Valley speak for themselves.

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by rightsaction.org 1 comment

Sipakapa no se vende

On 13 June 2007, forty-two communities in a Guatemalan municipality called Ixchiguan said 'No' to destructive mining in their territories. In the referendum, local people rejected the mining exploration licenses given to mining companies without their consent.

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by foei.org

Mirage of El Dorado - trailer

Mirage of El Dorado, the new film by Martin Frigon, takes us high into the Andes of northern Chile where Canadian-owned Barrick Gold, the biggest gold producer in the world, is set to move glaciers if necessary to get at the mineral riches beneath.

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by Martin Frigon

La mineria nos deja sin agua!

SHARE project documents the story of the people of Cabañas province who are losing their well water due to mining exploration by Vancouver-based Pacific Rim. (Spanish)

November 11, 2008 Nov 11 by Comite Ambiental Cabañas 1 comment
November 11, 2008 Business

Shredding Social Fabric

Company promoters "contaminate" communities in El Salvador

November 10, 2008 Foreign Policy

How Good is Canada’s Word?

Vancouver's Corriente Resources is in deep in Ecuador

October 17, 2008 Weblog:

Interview: Indigenous resistance and state repression in Colombia


Update from Cauca, Colombia: Indigenous resistance and state repression is an 8 minute interview with Manuel Rozental, recorded on the evening of Thursday, October 16th.

Rozental talks about the status of the mobilizations and their significance on a national level, the repression faced by the movement, and the five point agenda being demanded by the communities in resistance.

More info at radio4all.

Photo by Simone Bruno.

September 25, 2008 Photo Essay

Canadian Mining in Mexico

A close-up look at the impacts of gold mining in San Luis Potosí

September 18, 2008 Accounts

Justice in Colombia?

The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal reads its verdict

September 13, 2008 Weblog:

Bolivia is popular, Bolivia is strong!


Bolivia on edge after martial law declared screams a headline in today's Toronto Star. The Reuters piece blasts President Evo Morales for "banning protests," obscuring the cause of the violence inside of Bolivia almost completely.

Manuel Rozental, Colombian surgeon and activist, stated this morning that right wing groups [led by opposition regional governors] in Bolivia are hoping to pull off a "mediatic coup."

"Bolivia is popular, Bolivia is strong, the truth, the official truth will only come from the Government and popular organizations and their guidance must be sought," he wrote.

In a separate story, Reuters reported today that "Officials said at least 15 people -- mostly pro-government peasant farmers -- had been killed in clashes on Thursday with backers of the opposition regional governor."

Olivia Burlingame Goumbri wrote in Alternet that "Despite the fact that [Morales] represents the majority of Bolivians, refusals to recognize President Morales and his legitimate policy initiatives since he was first elected in 2005 have been a growing problem, and one that reflects racism."

Refusals to recognize Morales don't stop with the Bolivian elite, but reverberate through western government policies and the media.

» continue reading "Bolivia is popular, Bolivia is strong!"

September 10, 2008 Weblog:

Haïti: Exposition sur les conséquences du coup d'état de 2004


Le photographe Montréalais Darren Ell présente sa nouvelle exposition intitulée Haïti: Rembobiner. M. Ell a créé l'expo en réponse à la politique canadienne, française et américaine en Haïti. L'expo comporte des photos, des extraits de vidéo et des textes ramassés lors de ses voyages en Haïti entre 2006 et 2008. Elle expose le rôle des puissances étrangères dans la déstabilisation et le renversement du gouvernement populaire de Jean-Bertrand Aristide en février 2004. Elle examine aussi les séquelles du renversement du gouvernement élu, un événement avec lequel les Haïtiens vivent encore aujourd'hui. M. Ell remet en question la supposée bienveillance de la présence militaire et policière des Nations-unies qui est la puissance prédominante en Haïti depuis 2004.

Les photographies et les projections de l'expo situent l'intervention étrangère dans l'histoire coloniale d'Haïti. Des photos ont été prises lors des opérations onusiennes et des manifestations contre la vie chère. Elles évoquent les tableaux des peintres français œuvrant au plus fort de la puissance impériale française, et elles rappellent le travail du peintre activiste américain Léon Golub.

La première projection combine un paysage tranquille et abandonné de Cité Soleil avec la voix du Canado-Haïtien Jean St-Vil, qui récite le témoignage de Frantz Gabriel, seul témoin de l'enlèvement de Jean-Bertrand Aristide le 29 février 2004. Gabriel fut responsable de la sécurité d'Aristide et a été lui-même enlevé. La deuxième projection montre des douzaines de noms, accompagnés de données légales, de prisonniers politiques emprisonnés pendant le coup d'état.

» continue reading "Haïti: Exposition sur les conséquences du coup d'état de 2004"

September 4, 2008 Weblog:

Venezuelan Cooperatives

The excellent Upside Down World has an interesting, critical take on the Venezuelan cooperative movement.

August 29, 2008 Labour

Free Trade will not Lift All Boats

Trade deal with Colombia criticized by Canadian labour leaders

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