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Posts Tagged ‘Bolivia’

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced today that Bolivia will soon begin building recycled “petrocasas” with the help of Venezuela. These low-cost plastic dwellings are built with waste generated by oil refining, and are providing a solution to economic and environmental pressures. Tens of thousands have already been erected in Venezuela as well as Cuba and Peru. It was in Peru where Morales first saw the petrocasas and the role they played in the country’s recovery after a 2007 earthquake.

With an investment of $80 million, Bolivia will open a factory to produce petrocasas in Oruro. The first recipients will reportedly be the relatives of the victims of Bolivia’s “gas wars” of 2003. The eco-friendly houses will go up in low income areas, including El Alto and Trinidad. The project was announced at an event commemorating the 228th anniversary of the first uprising against the Spanish colonists.

See our last post on petrocasas here. For coverage in Spanish, see Reuters.

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The World Social Forum began yesterday in Belém, Brazil, a city located at the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. The Presidents of Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Paraguay (pictured above from left to right) are attending this massive ninth annual event, which brings leaders and citizens together under the slogan “Another World is Possible.”

The summit coincides with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. With economies across the globe in crisis, the alternative view provided by the Social Forum is particularly important this year. Here is what people are saying about the forum:

We are raising our voices as a wake-up call to the world, especially the rich countries that are hastening its destruction… [for] we are the ones who were born and raised in the middle of the forest, and who lead a lifestyle that contrasts with the ambition of capitalism, which does not bring benefits to all.

Edmundo Omoré of Brazil’s Xavante Indigenous community

We are launching an SOS to the world. The planet is in danger and is heading for destruction. That’s why we’re here asking for solidarity. …The big multinationals are going into our territories, sometimes with the help of paramilitaries, sometimes with the assent of the government, pushing out our own communities. And those who resist are persecuted.

— Miguel Palacin, Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organizations

Indigenous and environmental issues top the agenda this year. See coverage from the BBC, AFP, and IPS. A good video can be found at Euronews.

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Representatives from 33 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean just finished meeting in Brazil. By all accounts, the atmosphere was convivial.

Believe it or not, this “Rio Group” summit marked first time that such a large regional event has occurred without the presence of the United States. So what does this mean for the hemisphere? It depends on who you ask.

The AP reports that President Lula da Silva of Brazil said:

In the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, our countries are discovering that they aren’t part of the problem,” Mr. da Silva said. “They can and should be fundamental players in the solution […]

There was a time when our friend Chavez was all alone. Who would have imagined 10 years ago our beloved Evo Morales as president? Would would have thought that a liberation theology bishop could become Paraguay’s president?

President Chavez said:

The important thing is that we are here together, without the patronage of the empire. The way is beginning, a new way – our way from the South.

And of course, Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington had this commentary to add:

This is a healthy development and should not be seen as a rejection of the U.S. On the contrary, Latin America wants to deal with the U.S. and other major world powers, but it wants to do so on more equal terms than in the past.

Read more about the Latin American summit from the AFP and the New York Times, and use the comments section to tell us what you think about the events.

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Last week, over Thanksgiving, it’s safe to say that some Latin Americans may have given thanks for increased cooperation among countries in the region.

Venezuela hosted a summit of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the America) last Wednesday in Caracas which brought together the leaders of member countries Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, and Dominica. Also in attendance was President Correa of Ecuador.

Among the initiatives proposed by Venezuela was the creation of a common currency. President Chavez said it could act as “a monetary zone of solidarity-based commercial exchange” to reduce dependence on the U.S. and financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

Read news articles here and here, or check out the ALBA declaration issued November 26th in Spanish here.

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Did you hear? The regional integration group called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) now has a sixth member.

Honduras officially joined ALBA on Monday. In a ceremony with the Presidents of Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya signed a document to ratify the participation of his small Central American nation. By joining ALBA, Honduras hopes to increase trade with other member countries and collaborate on food security and energy security agreements, among other initiatives.

Honduras’ membership in ALBA has been a hot topic in the news, not least because the country was a strategic U.S. ally during the Cold War and the wars in Central America.

Where is Honduras headed now? Perhaps in another direction, according to the IPS. The Italian news service reports that ALBA was founded as an alternative to the now floundering U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Its principles include: cooperation, solidarity and complementarity and committed to fighting poverty, inequality and unequal terms of trade.”

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The Bank of the South (or in Spanish, Banco del Sur) is an institution that promises to help Latin American countries help themselves.

Founded late last year, the Bank has just announced it will begin operations with US$10 billion in startup capital. This amount may climb to as much as $20 billion. Each country’s contribution is directly proportionate to the size of its economy. Member states are Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (see their economy ministers pictured here).

What are the benefits? The new Bank of the South gives countries a new option for how to finance development programs. Priority areas are infrastructure, industry, housing, transportation, and human capacity-building.

Most importantly, the Bank creates an opportunities for cooperation and mutual assistance among countries in the region. Instead of relying on financial institutions like the IMF, which issued loans tied to policy demands, nations can soon borrow on their own terms.

Read more about the IMF’s decline in Latin America in the this report and this opinion piece.

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Latin American leaders met yesterday to talk about what is becoming a pressing global issue: the supply of affordable basic foods. Diets in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean rely on staples like corn, rice, and other grains, and their price has doubled in the last three years. Shortages have caused riots in Haiti and parts of Africa and Asia, and in the U.S., major bulk grocery stores have limited rice purchases by customers.

Luckily, Latin American governments seem to be taking a pro-active approach to the issue of food security.

A new regional agreement signed by representatives of 17 countries under the ALBA regional integration initiative is based on a proposal by Venezuela that also addresses energy security. Countries vowed to increase food production by pursuing agricultural reform and investing more in the agricultural sector, perhaps asking private banks to do so as well. Also, greater cross-border cooperation in food supply issues was prioritized to create “fair trade within and between the countries that results in fair prices for producers and consumers.”

The ALBA initiative includes a $100 million fund by Venezuela that is aimed at boosting cereal production. The money will help finance programs including a grain bank for the region. Another meeting is planned for later this month.

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