Presidents Ollanta Humala and Evo Morales are both in the news today for pissing people off. Ollanta for spurning the U.S drug war; Evo for appearing like hypocrite and building through indigenous ancestral lands.
- For months, as it became clearer that Ollanta Humala would become President of Perú, northern press and conservative commentators have either been screaming Que dios nos ayude (god help us) if this Hugo Chavez protegé becomes president – or telling everyone to calm down because he’s not the next Chávez, he’s the next Lula! Now that Humala has become president, he has served up his first shock to el norte by suspending its coca eradication program funded and run by the United States. (LA Times / BBC) Bloggings by Boz has some more analysis. Don’t worry oil companies – Reuters also reports today that Peru’s indigenous groups are disappointed with the president’s plan to welcome oil exploration in Amazon areas inhabited by indigenous groups. Perú isn’t closing for business anytime soon.
- Across the border indigenous groups are blockading roads and marching to La Paz to protest the government’s plan to build a highway connecting Bolivia from Brazil to the Pacific. The project obviously calls into question Evo Morales’ Pachamama image as an environmentalist and safeguard against what he himself has called ethnocide. It’s of course more complicated than that – the nation’s first indigenous president is weighing the demands of indigenous groups living in the territory versus a core constituency of Quechua and Aymara speaking indigenous groups that have colonized the area and will benefit from the access to new markets. The project is an opportunity for foreign investment (in this case, from Brazil) and is understood as another attempt for Bolivia to escape the poverty and isolation bequeathed to it by becoming land locked by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). Evo has responded by discrediting the protests as a conspiracy by foreign NGOs – an all too familiar discourse employed by Latin American leaders like Alan Garcia. NACLA has further analysis and details. And here’s some coverage from Al Jazeera:
- Bolivia Indians in road protest (bbc.co.uk)
- Peru suspends US-funded coca eradication programme (guardian.co.uk)