Best of the Web: August 2020

By |17/September/2020|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) Snowflakes Hither, Yonder and In the Tropics: Ungentrifying Journalism from Brazil to Ecuador (Julian Cola/MintPress News)

The mammoth machine of mainstream and western media at-large tells us who is articulate enough, indeed worldly, mindful, and honest enough to saddle the demands required of international journalism.

2) The People of Brazil Must Know they Do Not Stand Alone (Claudia Webbe/Brasil Wire)

At the time of writing (August 26), Brazil has the second most cases (3,622,861) and deaths (115,309) from Coronavirus in the world. Many health experts believe these already horrendous figures are a massive under-reporting of the real situation.

3) Movements Sustain Historical Memory in Latin America (Diana Ramos Gutiérrez/NACLA)

From Mexico to Chile, the pandemic has not stopped social movements from demanding justice for human rights abuses.

4) European banks profiteering from environmental crimes in the Amazon (Aman Azhar/The Real News Network)

A recent study found that for years, private European banks based in Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands have provided billions of dollars for the extraction and trade of crude oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the U.S., leaving a trail of environmental devastation, violent crimes, and human misery.

5) The US contracts out its regime change operation in Nicaragua (John Perry/Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

An extraordinary leaked document gives a glimpse of the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.

6) Venezuelan Guaidó coup regime is restoring relations with Israel, decade after Hugo Chávez broke ties (Ben Norton/The GrayZone)

The US-backed Venezuelan coup regime of Juan Guaidó is reestablishing ties with Israel and has opened a “virtual embassy” in Jerusalem, run by a right-wing rabbi who lives in Miami and wants Netanyahu’s help to fight “terrorism.”

7) Why Cuban Doctors Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (Vijay Prashad/CounterPunch)

No wonder that there is an international campaign to have the Cuban doctors be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. This aspect of Cuba’s work is essential to its socialist project of international solidarity through care work.

8) Colombia: The Flowers of Inequality (Lily Squires/Latin America Bureau)

The cut-flower export industry graphically illustrates economic and social divisions.

9) Class Struggle and Human Rights in the Bolivarian Revolution: An Conversation with Ana Barrios (Cira Pascual Marquina/Venezuelanalysis)

Ana Barrios has been a social worker and human rights activist for some thirty years. She is a member of the Surgentes collective, an Chavista organization that works to democratize society and strengthen popular power initiatives. She is also part of San Agustin Convive, a mostly women’s cooperative in the San Agustin barrio in Caracas.


10) Chilean animation pays tribute to land struggles of Mapuche indigenous peoples (Sounds and Colours)

Choyün, Shoots of the Earth tells the story of a young Mapuche woman returning from the capital Santiago to her ancestral southern home in the Araucania region, currently facing a social and environmental crisis.

Video: Jeremy Corbyn on Salvador Allende

By |11/September/2020|

Jeremy Corbyn discusses his life of supporting social justice in Chile and the enduring legacy of Salvador Allende, who died 47 years ago in the military coup of 11 September 1973.

‘The support around the world for Allende was absolutely massive.’ Jeremy Corbyn on the enduring legacy Chile’s socialist president Salvador Allende.

Corbyn spoke during Alborada’s online event ‘The 50th Anniversary of Chile’s Popular Unity‘ on 10 September 2020. The event marked fifty years since Allende was elected to the Chilean presidency on 4 September 1970, upon which he embarked on a massive programme to redistribute wealth that raised living standards for millions of people.

Allende died in the military coup of 11 September 1973, which took place 47 years ago today.

Watch Alborada’s online events.

How Benetton Abuses Mapuche Rights

By |10/September/2020|

Three years after the alleged forced disappearance of Argentinian activist Santiago Maldonado, the Benetton family continues to violate indigenous rights in Patagonia.

On 1 August 2017, the Argentinian activist Santiago Maldonado disappeared while protesting in defence of Mapuche indigenous rights on land owned by the Italian fashion company Benetton in the Chubut region of Patagonia. Following public outrage over the alleged involvement of security forces in his disappearance, Maldonado’s body was finally found on 17 October, in a river close to where he had last been seen.

An autopsy ruled that the cause of the activist’s death was ‘drowning and hypothermia’ and the case was closed in late 2018. However, forensic expert Enrique Prueger subsequently declared it impossible that Maldonado’s corpse had spent 78 days in the river and that it must have been placed there, some time between a few hours and ten days before it was discovered.

Prueger pointed out the unlikelihood that Maldonado had drowned in water only 30cms deep, while pollen found on his clothes should have dissipated after an extended period submerged. Moreover, how was it possible that divers had searched that stretch of river seven times and not seen the body?

In 2019, multiple complaints, including from Argentina’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH) and Maldonado’s family, contested the original autopsy ruling. In September 2019, the Federal Court of Appeal established that Santiago died a violent death due to the actions of the National Gendarmerie of Argentina (GNA). Maldonado’s family and the APDH argued that the crimes included aggravated homicide by security forces and forced disappearance followed by death.

On 3 August 2020, the Alberto Fernández government, which took office in December 2019, accused several high-ranking officials in the preceding Mauricio Macri administration (2015-2019) of responsibility in the death of Santiago Maldonado. Those accused are former cabinet chief of the Ministry of Security, Pablo Nocetti, former national director of the Gendarmerie, Gerardo Otero, and Otero’s second-in-command, Ernesto Oscar Robino.

The accusations allege that the Macri government systematically violated the human rights of political opponents through illegal spying, the interference of intelligence services in the federal justice system and arbitrary detentions. Although Maldonado is not the only victim of state repression in democratic times in Argentina, his case is emblematic as it sheds light on the prioritisation of international profit over human rights, as well as corruption and authoritarianism under the Macri administration.

Beyond Santiago: Mapuche rights vs Benetton money

Maldonado disappeared in 2017 while demanding the return of ancestral Mapuche land, but the movement dates back to 2002 when the Benetton family – which bought the land in 1991 – displaced the indigenous community living there. The evicted Mapuche started a process of recuperation, arguing that the land belonged to them by right, as sustained by the Argentinian Constitution. This recognises the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous people and the possession and communitarian property of their traditional territories. Furthermore, the Benetton family was violating international law, such as the European Union’s Code of Conduct. By depriving

Miguel Littín and Chilean Cinema’s Social Outlook

By |9/September/2020|

The renowned Chilean director discusses today’s social movements, the COVID-19 pandemic and the relevance of his iconic film The Jackal of Nahueltoro fifty years after its release.

Interview by Isabel Aguilera, Ricardo Diaz-Cuffin and Simon Diaz-Cuffin.

When the filmmaker Miguel Littín left Chile following the military coup in 1973, he was already well-known for his breakout hit, El Chacal de Nahueltoro (The Jackal of Nahueltoro, 1969), the true story of the life and imprisonment of José del Carmen, an itinerant and uneducated worker who murders the family that took him in. Confronting the injustices embedded in Chilean society, Littín’s feature debut critiqued the socio-political conditions that push people to commit these crimes.

On the back of this success, he went on to occupy the role of director of Chile Films, a state-run production company under Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government. During this period, he also shot the documentary Compañero Presidente (Comrade President, 1971), which compiled different interviews with Allende conducted by French philosopher and writer Regis Debray.

As the CIA-backed coup struck Chile in 1973, Littín was finishing his second feature film, La Tierra Prometida (The Promised Land, 1973), which would be completed in Cuba during his exile. Throughout his career as a filmmaker and writer, he has focused on recovering historical memory through culture, reviving an awareness of the past to serve the present. In Actas de Marusia (Letters from Marusia, 1975), his first film in exile and first Oscar nomination, Littín used the massacre of the saltpetre town of Marusia in 1925, when over 500 striking workers and their family members were killed, as an allegory of Chile at the time, with the military repressing any form of collectivised organisation in order to protect foreign economic interests.

During his years in exile, Littín worked between Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba and Spain, expanding beyond Chile’s national landscape towards international contexts. During this period, he also established a relationship with Gabriel García Márquez, adapting his short story La Viuda de Montiel (The Widow of Montiel) in 1979. He also garnered his second Oscar nomination with Alsino y el Condor (Alsino and the Condor, 1982), set during the Nicaraguan Revolution, also in 1979.

In 1985, Littín returned to Chile disguised as a Uruguayan businessman to make Acta General de Chile (General Report on Chile), a four-part documentary series surveying the past-and-present Chilean identity of resistance. This experience subsequently inspired Márquez’s best-seller, Clandestine in Chile (1986), which applied further international pressure on Pinochet’s dictatorship. Littín inaugurated his return to Chile with his film Los Naúfragos (The Shipwrecked, 1994), going on to produce films like Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire, 2000), La Ultima Luna (The Last Moon, 2005) and others. More recently, Littín released Allende in his Labyrinth (2014), which chronicled the president’s final hours in the Moneda palace, and is publishing his latest book Los Murmullos de la Ausencia (The Whispers of Absence, 2020).

Alborada spoke to Miguel Littín about his career, the recent protests launched in Chile and the longlasting impact of The Jackal of Nahueltoro.

To give us some

The Julian Assange Case and the Role of Ecuador

By |6/September/2020|

An insiders account of the contrasting role Ecuador has played in first protecting and now persecuting imprisoned journalist Julian Assange.

Despite the alarming precedent the persecution of Julian Assange sets for the future of journalism, mainstream media has conducted a brutal character assassination of the Wikileaks founder, currently in Belmarsh prison and facing potential extradition to the United States.

We are joined by former Ecuador embassy official Fidel Narvaez, who supported Julian Assange during his stay in the embassy after he was granted asylum by the then Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa. After Lenin Moreno assumed the Ecuadorian presidency the government’s position quickly became hostile towards Assange resulting in Moreno allowing British service agents into the Ecuadorian embassy in London to arrest Assange in April 2019.

Narvaez will be in conversation with Alborada co-editor Pablo Navarrete and journalist Matt Kennard (co-founder of Declassified UK), who has extensively covered the Assange case. They will also cover how the media has covered Ecuador’s role in the Assange case.

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Jeremy Corbyn on 50 Years Since Salvador Allende’s Election

By |4/September/2020|

Former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reflects on the 50th anniversary of Salvador Allende winning the presidency in Chile and his Popular Unity government which followed.

My first visit to Chile was in 1969. Popular Unity was assembling its programme, the May Day March was full of hopeful talk of the Left coming together to elect a president who would lead the transformation of Chile. A year later Allende was elected and assumed office.

The message around the globe was electric. A socialist platform to transform society in favour of the many was being implemented. The flowering of art, imagination, protest, demand had resulted in new homes, schools, access to university and real hope for millions. The opposition in Chile, conservative and bitter were emboldened by the resources of the very biggest corporations and the the worlds most powerful state, the USA. Three years of solidarity from millions and opposition from millionaires led to the coup of 1973. British supplied planes bombed the president. The reign of terror set in. Thousands were murdered.

The only way to remember this is the heroism of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Of the naked power of the richest and most powerful to retain their privilege and wealth. Fifty years on Allende is remembered and revered for the decent visionary socialist he was. Pinochet and the Generals are detested for the violent thugs they were. The songs of Victor Jara and the poetry of Neruda will never go away. That is because there are millions of us as determined as ever to create that decent world of equality, peace and justice.

The above text will be read at an event on Friday 4 September entitled Seminario Internacional » a 50 años del triunfo de la UP. More information about the event, which will be streamed online in Spanish, here.

Alborada’s next Alborada Online event on Thursday 10 September explores what the Popular Unity meant for its supporters and the historical context in which it arose and was ultimately defeated. Attendance is free but you need to register beforehand. You can register for tickets here.

Film Review: Let It Burn

By |4/August/2020|

Let It Burn is a tactful, poignant documentary which slowly unravels the stories of tenants recovering from alcoholism and cocaine addiction in a rundown area of São Paulo.

In 2016, a popular, short-lived initiative called ‘Open Arms’ (De Bracos Abertos) was launched to counteract the detrimental impact of São Paulo’s open-air drug market known as Cracolandia. Through brief vignettes, this documentary illustrates how the harm reduction programme is invaluable in providing safe shelter, access to work, solidarity and companionship in the Parque Dom Pedro Hotel . However, this depiction is not slanted.

Shot mainly in tight framing, the director Maíra Bühler empowers the tenants. There is no narrator to add cohesion: the dialogue is entirely unprompted, and thus propelled by marginalised voices. The static, tight framing underlines that the tenants are relaxed with being scrutinised. This is most notable in reoccurring scenes of an overcrowded lift. A typically claustrophobic experience is transformed into a shared delight: often, the passengers enter ‘just for the ride’ without a clue of where they are heading. It was this aimlessness which saw them gravitate towards the hotel. The lift scenes are a microcosm of the increasing demands the hotel faces. Inevitably, the restriction of space and resources blurs the imminent future. This is reflected in one tenant’s wary, stubborn refusal to accommodate a large family by moving to another room. Initially, this firm stance appears quite unreasonable until it is revealed that he has already been required to change rooms in the past. This constant shuffling around is a stark reminder of the tenuous stability conferred to the tenants.

The ‘Open Arms’ initiative was intended as an alternative to the failed internment and forced abstinence programmes usually run by strict religious groups. A key component of the ‘Open Arms’ ethos was to rebuild the self-esteem of addicts by allowing them to undergo rehabilitation at their own pace. Retaining agency is a key theme of the documentary. In one striking scene, an enraged, intoxicated man, carrying a metal bar, storms into a room. However, the camera remains pinned to the corridor, with the door ajar, while glass shatters and loud thumps can be heard. The implication is that direct intervention is a myopic solution. Reform can only transpire if there is consent. This detachment from the fight underlines that, while the audience can stay sheltered, the tenants, stripped of this privilege, must confront.

Maira Bühler’s portrayal of addicts is bleak but humanising. A surreal clip of a man swimming in a concrete pit, with a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, is juxtaposed with a man strenuously running up a stairwell. A man with raw emotion speaks to his wife on the phone, angrily accusing her of not reciprocating his love, yet kisses a woman once the conversation ceases. Passion is also memorably channelled by a toothless old man, sitting on the edge of a bed, tapping his flip-flops, rocking back and forth while singing a soulful song of hopeful change. Tender intimacy and excruciating loneliness are frequently revisited.

The final

Best of the Web: July 2020

By |3/August/2020|

Our monthly selection of the best articles on Latin America from around the internet.

1) Brazil, Southcom and the Push Towards War in Venezuela (Brasil Wire)

Brazil’s former President Lula da Silva has expressed concern about the threat of armed conflict involving Brazil, and questioned the new National Defence Policy announced by Bolsonaro’s military dominated government.

2) Berta Cáceres in Her Own Words (Asís Castellanos and Adrienne Pine/Toward Freedom)

Much of what has been written about Lenca/Honduran activist Berta Cáceres has focused on her identifications as an Indigenous woman and as an environmentalist. While neither is false, those two facts alone paint an anemic picture of Berta’s militancy, and that of COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).

3) Like Water for Capitalists: Understanding authoritarianism, privatization and capitalism in Bolivia (Esha Krishnaswamy/

American corporate media and American hegemony want you to believe that many socialist governments are authoritarian. But none of the socialist governments, past and present, are as violent or as repressive as a capitalistic government captured by for-profit corporations.

4) Colombia’s Disappeared (Forrest Hylton/London Review of Books)

With more than 80,000 official cases, Colombia has more disappeared people than the rest of the region put together, at least until Mexico began to spiral out of control in recent years.

5) Bolivia’s Ongoing Coup (Oliver Vargas/Tribune Magazine)

Faced with a victory for Evo Morales’ MAS party, the Bolivian government has postponed elections once again – the latest attack on democracy by a coup regime which Western powers supported in its name.

6) Cuba’s Nobel Nomination and Baldwin’s Call to “Begin Again” (Susan Babbitt/Counterpunch)

When an event is unexplained, it can’t be repeated. Cuba’s astonishing internationalism, the “good news” of the pandemic, is talked about (outside Cuba) as if a miracle, without cause. Support grows for the Nobel Prize nomination but the justification for the Henry Reeve Brigade, established in 2005, is left out. The explanation is ideas.

7) How a police spy’s stunning testimony threatens the US-Israeli AMIA bombing narrative (Gareth Porter/The Grayzone)

Revelations by a former police spy upend the official story blaming Iran for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and suggest a cover-up by dirty war elements may have let the real culprits off the hook.

8) Guyana: Sovereignty Imperiled by Disputed Election (Tamanisha J. John/Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

The manufactured political crisis makes Guyana vulnerable to foreign intervention, given Guyana’s ascent into the ranks of the world’s oil exporting countries in 2020 and its geographical positioning as Venezuela’s neighbour. These factors have placed the political situation unfolding within Guyana on the radar of many Western countries looking to secure contracts for oil from a Guyanese government, and the U.S. government in particular which wants to intervene in neighbouring Venezuela.

9) Corporate Greed Drives COVID-19 Pandemic Inside Peruvian Amazon (Aman Azhar/The Real News Network)

Peru’s lawmakers are weighing a vote on crucial legislation, which, if passed, will declare large areas of pristine Amazon rainforest off limits to drilling and mining projects—a clear showdown between Big Oil and corporate mining


Bolivian Historian Roberto Choque Canqui 1942-2020

By |25/July/2020|

In these troubled times, Choque Canqui’s works will resonate with all activists and historians dedicated to emancipatory struggle in Bolivia and beyond.

On 16 July, Roberto Choque Canqui, the pioneering Bolivian historian of indigenous rebellions died in La Paz.

His numerous works explored histories of Indigenous resistance in Bolivia, especially among the Aymara speaking communities of the highlands. Choque was born on 3 January 1942 in the town of Caquiaviri, Pacajes province in the Bolivian highlands. His mother was Agustina Canqui and his politically active father Simón Choque was involved with the 1945 Indigenous Congress, a landmark event that brought together Indigenous communities to mobilise over land rights, educational reform and political freedoms.

Perhaps the most celebrated of his works is the recently re-published The Jesús de Machaqa massacre. It documents the uprising in 1921 by Aymara ayllus (communities) around the town of Jesús de Machaqa in the highlands outside of La Paz, who rose up in protest at the loss of their lands and abuses committed by the local authority. In reprisal, President Bautista Saavedra dispatched over a thousand troops who looted, torched fields and killed at least 50 Aymara people in a massacre which looms large in the collective memory of the communities today.

‘Roberto Choque Canqui was a trailblazing historian way ahead of his time. His work impacted generations of historians, activists, students, and scholars in Bolivia and around the world,’ says Benjamin Dangl, lecturer at the University of Vermont and author, most recently, of The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia.

‘Choque’s archival and historical research efforts directly shaped and informed the ways that Indigenous and campesino movements in Bolivia, from the 1970s onward, incorporated historical knowledge, symbols, narratives and consciousness into their own organizing and movement-building. He was a kind and generous man, a giant in the field, and put ignored, silenced, and forgotten Indigenous histories back on the map.’

Dangl recalls how Choque himself was a key figure in the Indigenous political struggles of the 1970s and 80s in Bolivia. ‘During our meetings in La Paz, Bolivia, in recent years, he told me of visiting the historic CSUTCB [peasants’ union] leader Genaro Flores while Flores was in jail in the 1970s. Choque said he shared histories of Bolivian Indigenous resistance with Flores. In particular, they discussed 18th century Indigenous rebel leader Tupac Katari and how to recover the symbol and legacy of Katari within the growing Indigenous and campesino movements of the time. Such collaborations, as well as Choque’s hugely influential research and publishing record, helped transform the landscape of historical knowledge in Bolivia.’

In 1989, Choque ran for office in La Paz with the left-indigenous party Revolutionary Liberation Movement Tupac Katari (Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Katari de Liberación, MRTKL), part of the broader katarista movement which mobilised around a radical indigenous politics from the 1970s onwards. Later, he would become Vice Minister of Decolonisation between 2009 and 2010 under President Evo Morales, who was ousted in a rightwing coup last November.

He was also

A New ‘Good Neighbour Policy’ for Latin America

By |23/July/2020|

Instead of continuing down this imperial path of endless confrontation, US policymakers need to stop, recalibrate and design an entirely new approach to inter-American relations.

US policy towards Venezuela has been a fiasco. Try as it might, the Trump regime-change team has been unable to depose President Nicolás Maduro and finds itself stuck with a self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaidó, who President Trump was reported to have called ‘a kid’ who ‘doesn’t have what it takes.’ The Venezuelan people have paid a heavy price for Trump’s debacle, which has included crippling economic sanctions and coup attempts. So has US prestige internationally, as both the UN and the EU have urged lifting sanctions during the pandemic but the US has refused.

This is only one example of a string of disastrous policies toward Latin America. The Trump administration has dusted off the 19th century Monroe Doctrine that subjugates the nations of the region to US interests. But as in past centuries, US attempts at domination are confronted at every turn by popular resistance.

Instead of continuing down this imperial path of endless confrontation, US policymakers need to stop, recalibrate and design an entirely new approach to inter-American relations. This is particularly urgent as the continent is in the throes of a coronavirus crisis and an economic recession that is compounded by low commodity prices, a belly-up tourist industry and the drying up of remittances from outside.

A good reference point for a policy makeover is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘Good Neighbour Policy’ in the 1930s, which represented an abrupt break with the interventionism of that time. FDR abandoned ‘gunboat diplomacy’ in which Marines were sent throughout the region to impose US will. Though his policies were criticised for not going far enough, he did bring back US Marines from Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and scrapped the Platt Amendment that allowed the US to intervene unilaterally in Cuban affairs.

So what would a Good Neighbour Policy for the 21st Century look like? Here are some key planks:

An end to military intervention. The illegal use of military force has been a hallmark of US policy in the region, as we see from the deployment of Marines in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989; involvement in military actions leading to the Guatemalan coup in 1954 and destabilisation in Nicaragua in the 1980s; support for coups in Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973 and elsewhere. A Good Neighbour Policy would not only renounce the use of military force, but even the threat of such force (as in ‘all options are on the table’), particularly because such threats are illegal under international law.

US military intimidation also comes in the form of US bases that dot the continent from Cuba to Colombia to further south. These installations are often resisted by local communities, as was the case of the Manta Base in Ecuador that was shut down in 2008 and the ongoing opposition against the Guantanamo Base in Cuba. US bases in Latin America are a violation

Get Your Free Copy of New Digital Magazine ‘Alborada 10’

By |22/July/2020|

We are giving away our brand new digital magazine published to celebrate ten years of Alborada.

To celebrate Alborada’s tenth anniversary, we have published a special 32 page digital magazine. If you’d like to receive a copy, simply email us at:


We will then send you the magazine in PDF format.

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