from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On July 29, thousands of Venezuelan campesinos and supporters marched in the city of San Felipe, capital of Yaracuy state, to demand land reform and protest attacks on campesino leaders. The March for Dignity, Peace and Against Terrorism was headed by Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel. It was called in response to the July 22 assassination attempt against campesino leader and legislative deputy Braulio Alvarez. (AP, July 29)

The “Joel Sierra” Regional Human Rights Committee Foundation, based in the Colombian department of Arauca, has reported that four of the seven campesino family members murdered on July 20 on the Adi ranch in La Victoria, in the western Venezuelan state of Apure, were Colombians—including a five-year-old boy. The ranch is located close to the border with the Colombian municipality of Arauquita, in Arauca department. The massacre was apparently carried out by a member of the Venezuelan military. (Fundacion Comite Regional de Derechos Humanos “Joel Sierra,” undated, via Adital, July 28)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 30


Venezuela officially became the fifth full member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc on July 21 at a summit held July 20-21 in Cordoba, Argentina; the new member will have full voting rights by 2010. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay are the other full members; Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are associate members. The presidents of all member nations except Colombia, Ecuador and Peru attended the summit, as did Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruz, who had tended to avoid summits recently.

With the addition of Venezuela, Mercosur has a combined market of 250 million people and a combined output of $1 trillion in goods and services annually, according to Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula advocated bringing more Latin American nations into the bloc as full members. He noted that “no one’s talking anymore” about the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a hemispheric trade bloc the US wanted to have in place by 2005; negotiations towards a meaningful FTAA stalled in late 2003. “Who knows?” Lula said. “We could come to have a Merco-America and not just a Mercosur!”

Other business at the summit included the announcement of an accord for greater exchange of goods between Mercosur nations and Cuba through tariff reductions and a promise that neither side will arbitrarily hike import fees or taxes; the inclusion of Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay in plans for a natural gas pipeline from Argentina to Venezuela; acceptance of an Argentine-Venezuelan proposal for a Mercosur development bank; the announcement that a Mercosur parliament will begin holding sessions in Montevideo by the end of the year; the signing of a trade accord with Pakistan; and a commitment to continue trade talks with Israel, while calling for an immediate halt to Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. The summit also formally supported Venezuela’s bid for one of the two Latin American seats on the United Nations Security Council.

The Mercosur summit brought criticism from pro-US commentators. Venezuela’s entry should be a “wake-up call” for US officials who have been focused on the Middle East rather than Latin America, warned Michael Shifter of the Washington, DC-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank. Mercosur is becoming “an effort to try to build and consolidate an alternative alliance to US-backed free trade policies,” he told Associated Press. “So, have the Mercosur countries all gone bananas?” Peruvian-born commentator Alvaro Vargas Llosa, son of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, asked in a Washington Post op-ed. “Yes,” he answered. (Inter Press Service, July 21; CBS News, July 21 from AP; Upside Down World, July 24 from OpenDemocracy; WP, July 28)

Unions, non-governmental organizations and grassroots groups held an alternative Summit for the Sovereignty and Integration of the Peoples in Cordoba July 17-20. Its final declaration denounced the FTAA and militarization, demanded a withdrawal of US troops from Paraguay and of United Nations troops from Haiti, and opposed ratification of a Mercosur trade pact with Israel. (Adital, July 18; Campana Continental contra el ALCA, July 20)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug 8


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also:

WW4 REPORT #124, August 2006

“Chavez does Damascus,”
WW4 REPORT, Aug. 31


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Sept. 1, 2006
Reprinting permissible with attribution