Wednesday, June 22, 2005

UpsideDownWorld.org Welcomes its New Assistant Editor

From the looming threat of CAFTA, to the hopeful gains of the Chavez administration, from worker-run factories in Argentina to the uprising in Bolivia against the plan to privatize the nation’s gas – Upside Down World has provided news, resources and perspectives that help readers understand what’s actually happening on the ground in South America.

As the heat builds in this region of the world, UDW is also increasing its workload. We hope to provide even more ongoing coverage and commentary on activism and politics in South America. As a part of this new phase, UDW welcomes Cyril Mychalejko as our new assistant editor.

Cyril graduated from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA in 2002 with a degree in Liberal Arts. While at Evergreen Cyril spent two academic quarters living on Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota learning about indigenous issues. He concluded his stay by writing a report about racial profiling of Indians in the state. He finished his time at Evergreen by interning at The Chicago Reporter, a investigative monthly magazine reporting on issues surrounding race and poverty in Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area.

Since graduating he has worked as a journalist for daily and weekly community newspapers. He has also worked for a fair trade campaign, writing about trade agreements and globalization. In addition, he has been on the publications committee of Greater Phialdelphia democratic Left for the past five years. His articles have appeared in publications and websites such as Common Dreams, AlterNet, Z Magazine, The Miami Herald, The Capital Times (Madison, WI), Resource Center of the Americas, The Free Press, Against the Current, Impact Press, ProgressiveTrail and Greater Philadelphia democratic Left.

Read his article for UDW on Free Trade and Resistance in Guatemala.

With Cyril on board we’ll be able to increase the amount of original content UDW provides, as well as stay in touch with a larger number of writers. Our website will be improved and the links from around the web will also be updated more frequently. As we enact these new changes, we hope to hear your comments and advice. Please contact Cyril at Cyril@upsidedownworld.org

Thanks for reading and stay tuned. Click HERE to go to the site now

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Thoughts on Uruguay's new left-leaning President, Tabare Vazquez

An Australian journalist in Uruguay emailed me a number of questions on Uruguay's new left-leaning president, Tabare Vazquez. Here are his questions and my responses:

1)Do you think Tabare Vasquez was the best choice for
president, Why or why not, who would you have chosen?

Yes, I think Vasquez was the best choice for
President. For most of Uruguay’s history since
Independence from Spain, right wingers have been in
office. Vazquez’s victory is a huge breakthrough for
leftists in the country, particularly the Frente
Amplio political party, which has been fighting tooth
and nail for such a victory for decades.

The Washington Consensus, including IMF and World Bank
shaped policies which have focused more on opening
Uruguay to foreign investors than helping the
country’s poor with social services, has proven to be
a bankrupt set of policies across Latin America. For
this reason Uruguay, along with a slew of other
countries in Latin America have been electing left of
center presidents.

I think Vazquez offers a fresh hope to a country
paralyzed by foreign debt and poverty. He has pledged
to enact massive land reform, offering land to
landless farmers, put more money into schools and
health care, create business and economic alliances
with the region’s governments for a progressive trade
bloc as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the
Americas. The political history and democratic
mechanisms within the Frente Amplio will also increase
citizen participation in governmental policy making.

2)Foreign debt is a huge problem, do you think Vasquez
will improve this, how can this be achieved?

The massive debt poor countries owe to international
financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank
should be dropped completely. There are more
important things for governments to focus on than
paying back an enormous debt, ie schools, hospitals,
subsidies to farmers etc…

Vazquez could do something Kirchner in Argentina has
done, which is refuse to follow the dictates of the
IMF, and spend more money on infrastructure building
and a stronger welfare state, than pouring money back
into the rich nations that crippled them in the first
place.

I think Vazquez can do this, but it will be difficult,
as Lula has shown, to not bow down to corporate
interests and international pressure to pay the loans
back, thus stabilizing the environment for investors.
The people of Uruguay will have to keep the pressure
on to make sure Vazquez remains progressive and
receptive to the demands of the people.

3)Do you think the inequalities between the classes is
a big problem in Uruguay, how do you think it can be
improved?

The differences between classes in Uruguay are
enormous, as they are in most countries. It can be
improved by distributing wealth more evenly, and
creating equal opportunities for all people through
living wages, stronger educational institutions, jobs,
and cheap health care, some of the building blocks for
a more egalitarian society.

4)What do you think should be Vasquez's main
priorities as president?

Becoming more involved in building a progressive, self
sustaining, Latin America trade bloc as an alternative
to the FTAA and CAFTA, dealing with the debt
situation, putting more money into schools and health
care, redistributing the land to help poor farmers…

5)Do you think that Vasquez is leading towards
socialism in the country?

I think that many of his principles, and that of his
party, are based in socialistic ideals. This is a good
thing. Capitalist policies and the corporate interests
of the first world have been pillaging the region for
centuries. Anything that moves towards fair trade
over free trade and helping the poorest sectors of
society over the country’s business elite is a step in
the right direction. Again, it will be up to the
politicians Vazquez works with, and the Uruguayan
citizens themselves to hold Vazquez’s feet to the
flames to insure that he makes radical changes and
fulfills his campaign promises.

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Note, the day of this blog post, Financial Times published this article:
Markets take heart as Uruguay breaks leftwing mould

It's regarding Uruguay's economic minister's plans to payback the IMF in a method that's a far cry from Argentina's. We'll see how this pans out. Everyone knew the economic minister might do something like this. It is hard to tell what the future may hold for this country, and how the Frente Amplio party base might respond to this...