Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Why does the white man have so much cargo?

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Jared Diamond began his quest to discover the roots of inequality when an acquaintance, native to Papua New Guinea, asked why the white men had so much more “cargo” than the people of Papua New Guinea.  The theories that arose out of his study were published in the book “Guns, Germs and Steel”.

National Geographic did a documentary series based on Jared Diamonds book, which explores Diamond’s conclusions on why some civilizations have historically enjoyed tremendous prosperity and development while others languished.  The three part series is an intriguing study of Diamonds exploration – well worth watching.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


The Cable That Solved The Mystery

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On the 21st of December, 1976 a car bomb detonated in downtown Washington DC, killing former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his 26-year old American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt.  The assassination was part of “Condor”, a multinational collaboration between Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and several other Latin American military dictatorships.   Condor’s aim was to find and kill opponents of the conspiring regimes.  Senior US State Department officials were tipped off to the assassination plans and arrangements were made to send a diplomatic démarche which expressed “our deep concern” over “plans for the assassination of subversives, politicians, and prominent figures both within the national borders of certain Southern Cone countries and abroad.”  The US ambassador’s instructions to deliver the démarche however were rescinded and five days latter one of the Condor assassinations exploded in DC.

A long standing mystery has been Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s role in rescinding the Condor démarche, but with the uncovering of Kissinger’s cable, the answer to that mystery has finally come to light.  Earlier this week, The National Security Archive published it’s report on the new revelation that it was in fact Kissinger himself who blocked any further action being taken to deter the “Condor scheme”.

IF you want to learn more on the subject of Kissinger, Chile and Pinochet, a wealth of information can be found at the National Security Archives.  Also, audio recordings of Kissinger and Nixon discussing Chile were posted on Knosha in 2008 and are worth going back to for a listen.  While you’re at it, you may want to give this a listen too:

The Human Cost of Leaves

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You’ve probably noticed a growing awareness among consumers, awareness of where the things they buy come from and what the human cost is associated with that product.  It becomes difficult to buy a pair of shoes or a lousy T-shirt without asking “Am I supporting an abusive industry?”

A seemingly unrelated topic is that of the US’s awkward transition into legalizing Marijuana.  The clumsy shift in the law is made comically evident here in California, where laughable billboards advertise “medical” Marijuana cards and dispensaries are popping up everywhere.  The drug is understood by many to be an innocent offense – illegal but harmless.  Soon, perhaps very soon, it will be legal to grow and sell cannabis, but in the mean time, the same question we ask about our clothing and cheep electronics applies to Marijuana.  Where is it coming from?  Who is getting hurt to get it here?

There was a recent article in McClatchy that highlights Mexico’s expressed frustration toward the US’s flirtations with legalizing Marijuana.  There are those among our Southern neighbors who believe the US is undermining Mexico’s attempts to control the violent drug cartels that plague the country.

Tim Johnson’s article is worth reading and Mexico’s concerns warrant consideration as the US continues forward in developing new drug laws.

Written by Aaron Nee

March 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Venezuelan Election Results and Commentary

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Written by annnee

November 29, 2008 at 2:16 am

In Defense of a Corrupt Dictatorship

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Venezuela is holding elections today.  A lot has been said about Venezuelan corruption and suppression of authentic democracy.  In contrast to the unfavorable charges, the Venezuela Information Centre published some note worthy facts about the country’s elections.

Highlights include:

The elections will be the 14th set of national votes held since 1998 when Hugo Chávez was first elected as President. Hugo Chávez and his coalition of supporters have won 12 of the 13 previous national elections and referenda. This is in stark contrast to the 40 years prior to President Chávez‘s election, when only 15 national electoral contests were staged in Venezuela.

Elections under the government of Hugo Chavez have been verified as free and fair by a range of independent international observers including the Organisation of American States, the European Union and the US Carter Centre.

With regards to equality, half of the candidates standing in the local and regional elections will be women, following the implementation of legislation to ensure gender equality earlier this year. This is a tremendous advance for women in Venezuela – when these elections were last contested in 2004, 82% of candidates were male and 18% female.

The November 23 elections will be 100% computerised. Voting will take place using an electronic touch-screen voting machine that will provide every voter with a receipt. This allows the election authorities to conduct a manual recount of the paper receipts if the tally of a particular voting centre is challenged. The full electronic results will also be checked against a hand counted audit of 53 per cent of the machines.

… latest annual survey of Latin American opinion, carried out by the independent and respected polling firm Latinobarometro, showed that Venezuela is now the country with the greatest support for democracy in Latin America on 82%.

Venezuela is also now the country with the second highest levels of satisfaction with their democracy: 49% against an average of 37%. Additionally, Venezuela has, by far, the greatest number of political parties registered of any Latin American nation: 85 compared to the next highest of 22.(4)

Some controversy has been made over the barring of 250 candidates.  The claim is that the candidates, who have been disqualified after being found guilty of corruption and/or misuse of public funds, are being barred in an attempt to exclude Chávez opponents.  The Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias notes that a majority of the disqualified candidates are in fact government supporters.

Compare the Venezuelan disqualifying of candidates to the US Democratic Party’s lawsuits to get Ralph Nader’s name removed from ballots, and the Republican Party’s apparent voter disenfranchisement efforts in Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado and elsewhere.

Written by Aaron Nee

November 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm