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Argentina: Barter Clubs (03/04)

Before the Spanish conquest of the Americas, many pre-Columbian civilizations were organized economically on the basis of barter. If a family harvested a certain type of food, they traded it with another clan that had a different kind, or perhaps swapped it for lands, cattle, or garments. Today, in the midst of a dramatic economic crisis in Latin America, that wise approach has apparently revived.

In Argentina, more than 50 percent of the population is poor, and unemployment is above 40 percent. Barter clubs began to appear in 1995, but expanded enormously two years ago during a social and economic crisis, at about the same time that President Fernado de la Rœa was ousted from power following a massive popular uprising. According to a study by Centro de Estudios Nueva Mayor’a, more than 6 million people were part of the barter economy in 2001. Barter has also encouraged many people to become small entrepreneurs, developing production systems by exploiting their best skills. read more

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Criminalizing Dissent (3/04)

This isn’t the article I planned to write. My initial idea was to analyze the Patriot Act, especially the way this law has given license to federal, state, and local law enforcement to curtail due process protections by blurring the line, more fluid than ever, between what law enforcement can do in the name of foreign intelligence and during a domestic criminal investigation.

However, the end of 2003 brought even more bad news about civil liberties and the First Amendment. In response, my cautionary narrative about what might happen if we don’t pressure Congress to repeal the Patriot Act became a chronicle of recent events that should send a chill up the spines of all who believe in the US Constitution. It’s no longer a matter of what might happen, but what is already happening. read more

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Pipeline Resistance in Ecuador (03/03)

Thirty years ago, as petroleum finds were being developed in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the local political elite used potential oil exports as collateral for bank loans. This ultimately led to the highest per capita debt in South America, and, in the fall of 1999, Ecuador became the first country to default on Brady Bonds. Named after Reagan/Bush Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, these are financial instruments collateralized by zero percent US Treasury bonds and designed to avoid national bankruptcies. read more

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Colonial Comeback (06/03)

Many Filipinos are acutely aware of the connections between the US-led assault on Iraq and issues much closer to home. Aside from the massive troop build-up in the Middle East, the Philippines has seen the second biggest US military deployment since Afghanistan, and the largest concentration of US forces there since the withdrawal of US military bases in 1992.

In February, another 1700 US troops arrived. This follows last year’s Operation Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder”), which saw 1300 US soldiers “training and advising” the Philippine armed forces in counter-terrorism, focusing on Basilan, the island where the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang had a stronghold. The Philippines had already been declared the “second front.” Bush’s recent “wartime supplemental appropriations request” to Congress specifies the Philippines as one of the areas for additional funding for the “broader war on terror.”  read more

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A trip to Zapatista country (11/02)

Each hairpin turn on the winding mountain road to the Lacandon jungle in Chiapas revealed peaceful panoramic views of pine-covered forests and incredible vistas of cascading sheer drops to the canyons below. Our small Global Exchange delegation was on its way to an overnight stay with the Las Abejas nonviolent sympathizers of the Zapatistas.

Earlier in the week, we had met with experts who spoke about the region’s unique biodiversity, comparable to none save the Amazon. We also heard about an impending neo-liberal plan on the drawing boards of the Fox government and transnational corporations. The plan — Puebla Panama Project (PPP) — would be a major enterprise stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that could trigger a volcanic eruption of armed protest. Although it has so far slipped by the media without making a ripple, the communities we visited in April were clearly aware of its potential harsh impact upon their culture. read more

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Nicaragua, De-mining the Border (6/02)

Growing up in the remote mountains along Nicaragua’s border with Honduras, it was Neyrin Rivera’s job to mind the cows. When one wandered off, he knew he had to fetch it, or else face a hiding when he returned to the one-room, mud-brick shack he called home. But he didn’t know that he was following the errant cow into a minefield.

When the ground exploded beneath him, the seven-year-old had no idea what had happened. His leg had become a pulsating stump of blood, torn flesh, and protruding bone. “I didn’t know anything about mines, even what a mine was,” says Neyrin, now 11 and an old hand at riding a bicycle and playing football with the plastic prosthesis that replaced his right leg below the knee. read more