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Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal

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AC:     The United States is clearly counting on Colombia to play a major role in maintaining and promoting what they call "U.S. interests"--which generally means the interests of U.S. corporations--in Latin America.  Ecuador's new government recently announced that it is not renewing the U.S. lease on its military base in Manta, Ecuador.  So among other things, it looks like Colombia will be the site of the new base that will replace Manta.

There are really two things that a leftist government in Latin American needs to accomplish--neither one of them simple.  One is to redistribute their countries' resources internally, to address the region's devastating social and economic inequalities.  The other is to reformulate Latin America's relationship with the rest of the world, to break out of the pattern established after 1492, in which Latin America provides cheap labor, and cheap resources, for the benefit of Europe and later the United States.  These are monumental problems, and the United States government has shown itself pretty committed to keeping the status quo, even if doing so requires violence, murder, invasions, or coups.

Many of the people I spoke with on this trip seemed to feel a lot of hope that we're entering a new era, in which the United States will choose--or be forced--to accept major structural changes in Latin America.  Despite Obama's diplomatic language, he's already shown that he's quite ready to use military methods to further what the U.S. defines as its interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  But other factors--the swing to the left in Latin America, the work towards alternative regional economic integration, the economic crisis, and the growing global awareness of the environmental crisis and the planet's limited resources--could contribute to some real changes.

HB:     How can readers best help support the current work of the North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee, Witness for Peace, and those in Colombia who you recently visited?

AC:     We're hoping to bring one or two community leaders from the Colombian coal region to the U.S. on speaking tours this fall.  We are also planning another delegation for next summer.  And, we do occasional "urgent action"- requests in support of the work our Colombian partners are doing.  You can join the Witness for Peace or NSCSC e-lists to get updated information about all of these activities, or write to us directly at nscolombia@comcast.net if you want to get more involved in the planning.

--This interview was first published at UpsideDownWorld.org on June 15, 2009.

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Hans Bennett is a multi-media journalist mostly focusing on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. An archive of his work is available at insubordination.blogspot.com and he is also co-founder of "Journalists for Mumia," (more...)

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