October 2011

Las mulas de las drogas, or as it is known in English, the drug mules.
These mules, who are mainly women, center on the same concept: trafficking
drugs into another country for profit. But are most of these women really
victims? Though some have not known they are carrying drugs in purses or belts,
it seems ridiculous for others to not know that something is amiss. For women
trapped in the confines of poverty, becoming a mula seems like an easy way to
make some extra money. However, it would be insane to think that these women
are unaware of the dangers that are bestowed upon them once they begin their
journey. And their journey begins as soon as they swallow or insert their first
capsule or latex protected drugs.

In Spanish mula means mule. In many people’s minds, mules are lowly
animals used to work the land or for other such purposes. Thus the name alone introduces
these women as lowly creatures, bottom of the drug trafficking totem pole. Many
of these women are single parents, struggling within their impoverished lives
to make ends meet for the benefit of their children. So one could see why a
quick sum of money from a drug lord could entice these women to participate in
the dangerous scheme of transporting drugs.  There are many ways mulas can transport drugs,
such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana, across international borders. Some may
carry the drugs in a purse, belt, or suitcase without ever knowing what they
are carrying. However, other mulas swallow pellets of drugs, or pepas/pepitas,
or they may insert the drugs vaginally or anally. One mula was found with 114 capsules in her stomach. In this case, the women
are well aware of their task at hand and of the dangers that could befall them.
If any of the pepas were to rupture within them, it would be instant overdose
thus instant death.

One woman, who remains anonymous, practiced
her swallowing by “training with some carrots and grapes.” She then came to her
conclusion that “if you pass this [carrots and grapes], then you can pass this
[las drogas].” She became a mula in order to make a better life for her
children; however, was discovered by the authorities and sentenced to 8 years
in London, England. This mula is an example of the typical poor, single mother
who becomes the victim of an unfortunate circumstance. However, should she be
penned as much as a victim as she is portrayed as? She was well aware of the
drugs she was trafficking overseas.

Three other women were discovered as
mulas when a Houston customs agent “noticed that the women appeared overly voluptuous,
particularly in the bust, thighs and bottom… under layers of fashionable
clothing — each wore five to seven pounds of cocaine bricks.” These women were
clearly aware of the drugs they were carrying underneath their clothing, hidden
within the air of professionalism. These are the mulas who are obvious

Mulas and drug trafficking within itself is an unfortunate danger for many within
Latin America. And the use of women as mulas is a terrible way of life. Trapped
in poverty with no future for them or their children, easy and fast money from
the people within the drug trafficking system is an easy way out. Some women
have no choice but to become mulas while others make the decision themselves to
traffic drugs. The first section of mulas is considered victims of their
situation, but are they truly victims entirely? I began my research in this
subject to find evidence to prove the majority of them are not victims; however,
with the information I found, I could not help but feel that they sadly are
victimized. The concept of being a victim can be left to each individual’s
opinion, and that I leave to you.

After Brazil’s economy grew by an amazing rate of 7.5 percent in 2010 its economy is now slowing down.  Brazil was projected to have a gross domestic product of 3.7 in 2011 that has since been lowered to 3.5 percent. The reason for this is because of a recent recession in industry due to the lack of global demand.  Industrial production has dropped two quarters in a row now and for the third time in five months because of the Brazil’s strong currency.  The strong currency makes it hard for domestic industries in Brazil to beat the prices of cheap imports from China and other Asian countries.  The automotive industry is being hit the hardest by the economic slowdown.  According to Golman’s Mr Ramos the slowdown in growth is due to falling prices and capital inflows, “If commodity prices come down and if global sentiment remains weak, we could see those capital inflows starting to soften and commodity prices starting to soften – those have been very important drivers of performance in Brazil,” Mr Ramos said and he says that if the growth rate falls below 3 percent the government will have to get involved.  He believes that the government will have to create more aggressive monetary easing and possibly fiscal measures.  Even though the government hasn’t taken these measure yet doesn’t mean it hasn’t done anything.  The president ,Dilma Rousseff, has given tax cuts to certain manufacturers and raised prices on imports to decline the real to the dollar.  This has worked so far as the real has declined 18 percent against the dollar but this still has not yet helped these companies.  Another thing that the government has done is raised tax on cars with foreign made parts by 30 percentage points.  This was done to protect car makers from an increase in imports from Asia.  Despite the slowdown of the economy companies are still expanding in Brazil.  Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA are both planning on building another factory in Brazil.  The only thing that they are worried about is currency appreciation.  They are being helped out by the government trying to weaken the real and by central bank president , Alexandre Tombini, who has cut the Selic rate by 50 basis points which should lower borrowing costs in the near future.  Another company that plans on expanding in Brazil is John Deere.  John Deere plans on building two new factories in Brazil to meet the growing demand in South America.  The building of these new factories is expected to cost $180 million.  The steps that the government in Brazil is taking and the building of all these new factories in Brazil should help produce more jobs and should slowly help out the slowing economy.

Take a look at these links to learn more




2011 GDP for Brazil

from pbs.org

from pbs.org

Professor Ellie Schemenauer from the UW–Whitewater Department of Womens Studies spoke to our Latin American Studies class on Oct. 17.

Professor Schemenauer researches women and narcotics trafficking in Latin American and the Caribbean area. Some of her research was conducted in South Florida with the cooperation of drug enforcement officers. In the her doctoral thesis, Professor Schemenauer argued that notions of what it means to be a woman figure into the way the so-called “War on Drugs” is both conducted and talked about by the personnel engaged in this so-called war.  Her interviews also shed light on the lives of the women transporting drugs, which is a flesh-and-blood aspect of this problem that more visible policy discussions and crime data have overlooked.

President Barack Obama Supporting Improved US-Cuban Relations

The United States and Cuba have had strained relations ever since Fidel Castro came into power in 1959.  As early as 1960, the US broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and imposed a strict trade embargo in order to battle Castro’s communist reforms.  Since then, a series of disastrous events has further affected the relationship between the two countries.  Throughout the early 1960’s, for example, a number of events continued to deteriorate the nations’ rapport.  These include the Bay of Pigs incident of 1961, Operation Mongoose, which included the CIA drawing up plans to have Castro assassinated between the years of 1961 and 1963, and the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Throughout the years, relations between the two nations have waxed and waned but in general the relationship has remained tense.  A more in-depth analysis of the interactions between the United States and Cuba can be seen in a timeline

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12159943) format created by the BBC.

Fidel and Raul Castro

In February 2008, Fidel officially resigned from his post after transferring his political powers to his brother Raul due to health issues.  Many people wondered if this change of leaders would improve relations between the United States and Cuba, but as of now the tension between the countries hasn’t seemed to have relaxed much since the Cuban communist revolution in the 1950’s.  Currently, the United States’ official policy towards Cuba centers around two strategies:  economic embargo and diplomatic isolation.  Under the George W. Bush administration, the embargo was strictly enforced and travel restrictions were very high.  Now, under Barack Obama’s government, travel restrictions have been lifted as of April 13th, 2009, and although the embargo still remains intact, as of 2000 the Congress has elected to allow agricultural exports from the US to Cuba.  Although Obama is much more lenient on Cuban restrictions, Cuban politicians and citizens are much less optimistic about the formation of a positive and progressive relationship between the countries.  According to the Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/28/2430033/us-cuba-seek-improved-relations.html), US President Barack Obama is hopeful for the future of US relations with Cuba, but nothing can be done until Cuba is willing to negotiate specific political points as well as respect human rights.  It seems unlikely relations will improve while the Castro brothers are still in power, as they have been known to publicly criticize and insult the United States and President Obama in particular, but the United States hopes to one day repair the relationship between the two nations.

Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra is the current and 83rd president of Nicaragua; the poorest country in Central America. Ortega ran as the candidate for the Sandinista National Liberation Front party and was elected on November of 2006 with 37.99% of the votes. Ortega also previously served as president of the country back from January 10, 1985 until April 25, 1990 as the 79th president. Like the United States Constitution the Nicaraguan Constitution only permits a president to serve two terms. The Nicaraguan Constitution also bans a president from serving consecutive terms. To amend the constitution a majority vote would be required from congress. However, with President Ortega having control over parties in the courts, the electoral tribunal, and the police he was able to surpass these obstacles. On October 19, 2009 six judges of the Supreme Court of the Sandinista party secretly met and unanimously banned the constitution requirements and petitioned that they did not apply to President Daniel Ortega according to In Nicaragua, Opposition Sees an End Run according to the New Your Times. The controversy also spans from the fact that the ruling was brought together when no opposition judges were available or able to preside and possibly argue the ruling. The actions are considered illegal and unconstitutional by many. Many Nicaraguans including former Sandinista followers and various opposing party’s attempting to oust Ortega, it is unpredictable what the elections will be like when they take place on November 6, 2011.
President Ortega has a history of controversy and opposition. Seventeen years prior to running for his first term Ortega was imprisoned for robbing one of the largest banks in Nicaragua. He was later exiled to Cuba where Ortega was provided with guerilla training. He secretly returned to Nicaragua shortly after. Although his first run for elections were said to be fair according to several government delegations and associations; the Latin American Studies Associations claimed the party did “take advantage more….than parties everywhere routinely do”. Controversy was held at the end of Ortega’s service when a legislative actsknown as “The Piñata” was passed. “The Piñata” permitted the Sandinista party to illegally seize billions in private property for the use of Sandinista officials including Ortega. The fore mentioned actions made it difficult for Ortega to successfully win presidency through his next several attempts for reelections. His second run for election was also a controversial from the beginning. Unlike the first election many agree the election was not held fairly and changes were made to electoral law prior to the election to ensure Ortega’s success. In previous elections a runoff of 45% of the votes was required. If the 45% was not met a second election would be held with the two most successful parties according to percentages. However the electoral law was changed to 35% ensuring Ortega’s presidential run with 37.99% of the votes according to Sandinista Fervor Turns Sour for Former Comrades of Nicaragua\'s President written by Marc Lacey.
Ortega and the Sandinistas strategies have ensured Ortega’s power and the possibility the president will serve a third five year term for the country. Ortega having close ties with Venezuela president Hugo Chavez adds to the controversy. Chavez has provided Ortega with billions helping to ensure the presidents reelection through both investments and power. The funds help Ortega by expanding his power over a network of companies and ultimately political power. With Ortega’s numerous ties opposing parties are finding difficulty in coordinating any opposition against the President. Some even fear speaking against the President due to Ortega supporters taking delinquent and violent actions to anyone who publicly criticizes the President. One example is American ambassador Robert Callahan who was attacked after giving a public speech that disapproved of Ortega’s methods.
Many, including Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales Carazo, fear Ortega’s reelection will inevitably lead to a dictatorship. The Vice President has informed the public of his wishes to step down from office if Ortega is reelected. However, this may also cause more controversy setting a slot for one more Ortega supporter to move in. With little support from other countries except for Venezuela and Cuba the fight is left to the Nicaraguan people. As Fabio Gadea a former presidential candidate stated “The ones who must defend democracy are us, the Nicaraguans”, however the country may be at a loss as Supreme Court Magistrate Sergio Cuarezma desperately stated “The Sandinistas control everything. What can I do?”. To get updated information on the November 2011 elections please visit La Prensa online media newspaper.

Mexican Drug War

Although many years agoMexicowas a great power, nowadays Mexicans face the worst recession in over a half century. The worst devaluation of the Mexican currency, the Peso, in the 1990’s threwMexicointo economic turmoil. As a result, many Mexicans don’t have access to healthcare and the unemployment rates remain high. Additionally, there is one more problem that makes the socio-economic status ofMexicoworse, the increasingly high crime rates, which in its majority is the result of the illegal Mexican drug traffic. However, in order to understand the importance of the United States’ intervention in this affair, people should know how critical the Mexican drug traffic is, and the power drug cartels have and their connection to other terrorism organizations.

In order for drug traffic to be possible, Mexican drug smugglers have created highly organized criminal organizations usually known as “Drug cartels.” Among the most famous Mexican Cartels are La Familia or The Family cartel, El cartel de Juarez or Juarez Cartel and El Grupo de los Zetas or The Zetas’ Cartel. These well-financed drug cartels don’t just traffic with drugs, but also with people in order to increase the amount of members in their cartels. One way to achieve it is recruiting illegal immigrants trying to cross the U.S-Mexico border. Victims have told the Mexican authorities that the recruiters give the illegal immigrants two options: becoming a member of the cartel or die. A lose-lose situation.

For example, on Tuesday 24th, 2010 the Mexican Secretary of the Navy reported that 72 bodies, 58 men and 14 women, were found in a ranch in Tamaulipas, Mexico. According to The New York Times (2010), all of the victims were illegal immigrants from South and Central America on their way to theUnited States. The Mexican Navy troops were alerted to the area after a wounded man, the only survivor in the shooting, arrived at the naval checkpoint asking for medical support after being kidnapped, tortured and almost killed by members of the Zetas. This massacre caught media’s attention around the world which demanded an explanation from authorities about what they have accomplished in abolishing drug cartels. 

Presently, Mexican authorities fear that besides drug traffic and killings such as the Tamaulipas’ massacre, drug cartels are also uniting forces with Al Qaeda, which can make the situation even worse. According to CBS News (2010), on July, 2010, for the first time, drug smugglers used a car bomb as a weapon. “The use of car bomb clearly represents a tactical escalation. We’ve seen the first car bombing, there probably will be more,” said Brian Jenkins with the Rand Corp. Furthermore, CBS News also reported that President Calderon blamed theU.S.forMexico’s troubles. President Calderon states “[t]he origin of our violence problems begins with the fact thatMexicois located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world.”

Aljazeera (2010) reported that the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, promised to increaseU.S.efforts to prevent gun traffic from theU.S.toMexico, which is also another reason why the Mexican drug war has been unsuccessful. Although theU.S.has supported the Mexican Government with hundreds of millions of dollars destined to the suppression of drug traffic, all efforts have failed. Therefore, the Mexican government is demanding more support especially more involvement in strategies and planning in order to win the war against drug trafficking. With more support from the U.S., Mexico could become a safe place to live and visit.

Oil is one of the world’s largest consumed natural resources, and Latin America is trying to become a world leader in oil production.  Currently Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela are producing the largest amounts of oil for the South American countries.    But with high gas prices and advancement in technology oil companies have discovered new ways to drill and refine oil.  With the advancements in technology the oil companies have discovered a new off shore drilling spot in Brazil, along with a large potential for harvesting shale- gas. Shale gas is just another source of fuel.   According to FoxBusiness, Argentina is ranked third in the world according to the U.S. Energy information Administration (EIA) with 774 trillion cubic feet for drilling potential for shale – gas.  But according to some Venezuelan officials there is such an abundant oil supply already in Latin America that they feel they need to use what they have up before investing time and money to drill into shale- gas reserves.   According to COHA,    Venezuela boasts to have the largest oil reserves in the world.  Petro`leos de Venezuela S.A. also known as (PDVSA) is a Venezuelan owned oil company which produced their large oil reserve.  PDVSA accounts for 92 % of their nation’s income along with 1/3 of their gross domestic product (GDP).  Currently Venezuela exports 43 % of its oil yields to the United States market by shipping the crude oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast region to be refined into the final end product.



Oil Driliing















Oil Refinery




With the discovery of Brazil’s new off-shore drilling fields oil production is predicted to grow rapidly.  According to Right Side News, “Brazil will become an oil power by the end of the decade, with production in line with that of Iran.” Because of Brazil’s new discoveries they are predicted to have oil production up to 5.5 million barrels per day (BPD) by 2020.  Which is more than twice what Venezuela produces a day, currently Venezuela produces about 2.5 million barrels per day (BPD).    Because of this discovery Brazil is building its first nuclear submarine to protect their new off-shore oil fields. With Brazil predicted to have oil production up to 5.5 million barrels a day and Venezuela boasting to have the largest oil reserves in the world along with producing 2.5 million barrels a day if not more the “Americas” when you throw in the United States and Canada’s oil production could be an energy force if they all grouped up.  It would allow the “America’s “to be more self -sufficient and they would not have to import as much or if any from the Middle East or elsewhere.

The mapuches of Southern Chile are among many indigenous peoples in Latin America who have become increasingly mobilized over the last 20 years. One demonstration of their militancy is the rude reception they give to the whole idea of celebrating Christopher Columbus.

One protester explained: “It signifies the arrival of the Spanish usurpers and all they brought with them, colonialism and imperialism.” This is Mapuche leader Manuel Diaz.

The mapuche have also been active in trying to reclaim lands from the Chilean government, for which many have been jailed.

What is deforestation?

It is the clearing of forests on a massive scale. The trees that are cut down typically are not replaced with the natural growth of new trees or the manual replanting of new trees.

Why does this happen?

Forests are cleared out for various reasons. Local economy, agriculture and the need to feed one’s family
are a few of the biggest reasons for deforestation. However, deforestation can occur unintentionally. For example, through the natural occurrence of wildfires and overgrazing which prevent the growth of trees.

How does deforestation affect the environment?

It affects the environment in many negative ways. First of all, seventy percent of the Earth’s animals and plants live in forests. Therefore, without their natural habitat most of these organisms cannot survive
outside of it. Deforestation is connected with climate change. The top of a forest is called a canopy. When part of the canopy is missing, the heat that would normally be stored beneath it escapes leading to extremes in temperature. Also, if part of the canopy is missing, the sun will dry up the normally moist dirt creating a dry desert. Forests hold significant amounts of carbon dioxide and again when the trees are cut down, this gas escapes into the atmosphere causing climate changes.

How can we manage this problem?

Since we cannot simply just stop cutting down trees altogether, there a couple alternatives that would make a difference. First, when trees are cut down they ought to be replaced with equal numbers of new ones. Currently, this ratio very unbalanced. Second, eliminate clear-cutting which is the method of logging that removes all trees from a certain area of a forest.


Pantanal Deforestation

Photograph by
Nicole Duplaix

Token trees dot
Brazil’s Pantanal wetland where dense forest used to stand. Considered the
world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal is an ecological paradise that covers
54,000 square miles (140,000 square kilometers) in Brazil, Bolivia, and
Paraguay, and supports thousands of animal species.

Photo source: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/photos/rainforest-deforestation/

Why is deforestation an important topic regarding Latin America?

When we talk about deforestation and Latin America it is in reference to tropical rain forests versus the forests of the whole world. In this context, Brazil holds the largest area of continuous rain forest in the world, about one third. Consequently, this rain forest is extremely rich in biodiversity. This is one reason preserving this rain forest is one of the most important environmental issues today. (http://rainforests.mongabay.com/20brazil.htm)
Another reason can be attributed to the aforementioned consequences of carbon dioxide that is released in the atmosphere when deforestation occurs. On a larger scale, 49 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s land is covered by forest according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations “State of the World’s Forests” 2011 issue. (http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i2000e/i2000e01.pdf, p.17-21) The point to remember is that Latin America holds a significant amount of the world’s forests. Therefore, it becomes a global issue affecting all people when forests are being eliminated because we all suffer the consequences whether we are five miles or five thousand miles away.


As of right now, Ecuador is said to be in the state of chaos.  Last year Quito,also one of the cities with the highest violence rate, was on lockdown for the absurd amount of violent events that took place. During the police protest their President Rafael Correa was hospitalized from being hit by bottles. Along with that event there were many reports on fires loots and your general violence.

From all of this, Ecuador had stated that they would be cutting benefits for the state workers nationwide, this including police officers and troops. During the time, before he was hospitalized by the bottles being thrown at him, of the protest it was said that President Rafael Correa tried to talk with the protestors but instead of listening they “shouted him down.”  It is said that Ecuador police officers have many outstanding responsibilities, one of them being public safety. If it was one of their “outstanding responsibilities” why are they protesting making the violence rate increase and why are the homicide rates increasing? According to b10.com.ec , “The homicide rate in Ecuador has doubled in the last 20 years. In 1990 it was 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, in 2009 it was 18.7 and up to date the estimate suggests an increase to 20.”


I have found many articles on recent homicides, wondering where the special forces are and what they country is going to do about this issue. I have read that a women was shot at a stoplight, a merchant was killed right on the street, an assault of an assembly women and how a man was murdered all in the time span of about a week and a half. Now you must be thinking that well we live in America and those type of events unfortunately happen all the time, but Ecuador is ten times smaller than us and are apparently a bit more corrupt. When the incident at Quito accured, Iran had to come in and help because how else would Ecuador stay safe.


This country, along with many other countries, have issues they need to resolve. Their people are angry with the way things, as in economy and such, are being dealt with. With all of this chaos, it is interesting to see how or what other countries are doing to prevent violence. The United Nations is urging Ecuador to stop all of this violence. Ecuador needs to become one nation and solve this issue, otherwise it will go down hill.


Here is a video clip of “Repudiating Violence in Ecuador”:

Repudiating Violence in Ecuador


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