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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

Brazil industrial output falls for third time in five months


2011 GDP for Brazil

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

( 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 (, 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.

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.

Deforestation is an issue affecting areas in many parts of the world, including Costa Rica. Approximately 20,000 acres of land are deforested annually and recent studies indicate that only a quarter of the original forest cover in Costa Rica is still standing. Half of the land is under the protection of national parks and biological reserves, whereas the other half is comprised of indigenous and forest reserves, wildlife refuges, and privately owned plots of land. Despite the creation of many national parks and protected areas, Costa Rica still has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates (3,9%/year in 2007). According to Planeta, approximately 11% of Costa Rican land has been set aside for national parks; that is the equivalent of the US declaring all of Texas and Oklahoma as nature preserves.

Pristine Rainforest in Manuel Antonios National Park (Photo Credit: A. Vlack)

Many rainforests in Central and South America have been eradicated to create areas for cattle farming, which supply cheap beef to North America, China and Russia. It is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feet of rainforest is destroyed. This subsistence strategy is known as slash and burn farming and is believed to account for approximately half of all rainforest destruction. The problem with clearing rainforests is that the soil quality is poor, and without the vegetation it becomes dry very quickly. The grasses often die after only a few years, leaving the land to resemble a crusty desert. As a result, cattle farmers then have to relocate and destroy more rainforest to create new, productive cattle pastures.

Logging in a Costa Rican Rainforest

Logging is believed to be the second largest cause of deforestation because timber companies often cut down mahogany and teak trees to sell to other countries for furniture production. It has become a problem because current laws are too lenient on land that is not deemed a national territory, and recent amendments to forestry laws makes it even easier to obtain logging permits. The forests are also cut down to create vast mono-crop plantations where bananas, palm oil, pineapple, sugar cane, tea, coffee and other agricultural products are grown. Similarly, the soil is not able to sustain crops for long, and after a few years farmers are forced to cut down more rainforest to create new plantations.

 Flooding in San Juan, Costa Rica as a Result of Deforestation

The effects of deforestation can be devastating. Not only does it rid the land of its natural aesthetic, there are also consequences such as erosion that are damaging to the environment. When an area is cleared, the soil under the surface is essentially stripped of the roots that provided the foliage with structure and support. Without this support system, the force of water and gravity causes the land to move and as a result creates flooding, desertification, river sedimentation, long-term hydroelectric shortages, loss of wildlife diversity, and the depletion of wood resources.

For Latin America there are many upsides, but there are also many struggles that cannot go unrecognized.  One of the hardest struggles in much of Latin America is the issue of Deforestation in the area, specifically of the Amazon Rainforest.  To those unfamiliar with the subject, Deforestation is defined as the cutting down and removal of all or most trees in a forested area and for the Amazon Rainforest, the issue has raised the most concern.   The Deforestation problem has been said to be decreasing over the last 6 years, but according to “Science Daily” the downward trend has stopped this current year (2011).  On top of the progress stopping this year, deforestation in Latin America has already dated back to even the early 1900s, when the French Government began building the Panama Canal, so it may be difficult to catch up.

While removing trees here and there may not sound all that harmful, it truly is abuse to the lands.  It is harmful to plants, animals, humans, renewable sources, the economy, and even the earth itself.  The obvious harms are the stripping of plants from rich soil and animals their living homes and needs, but what one might not know is the role forests play in regulating climate.   According to “British Academics,” Deforestation in Latin America accounts for almost 53% of the emitted carbon dioxide in the atmospheric air.  To put that number into perspective, it is claimed to have the highest rate of emitting carbon in the world from logging.  By 2050, environmental experts say that any diseases emitted from the intense deforestation in Latin America will spread worldwide.  Even predicted are rises in crop diseases and pest, economic activities severely depleted, and draught and famine will be spread throughout tropical areas, like the once rich Amazon Rainforest.  Deforestation has already diminished much of the water sources in Latin America, and the ecosystem is said to continually get hurt.  The risk of harm from Deforestation has risen so high that even a 4.7 million euro project has arisen in South America called “AMAZALERT”.  A program to forecast what may be happening in the Amazon over the next few decades, and hopefully able to give warnings ahead of time to prevent degradation of the land.

The activity of cutting trees down and preparing for timber in use of profit is called logging.  This is often done illegally in South America as a business.  Logging has become one of the current most well-known forms of rainforest degradation and destruction of today.  In the 1990s, after depleting most of their own stocks, Asian logging companies have moved into northeastern South America to perform logging, often illegally.  Business will cut down massive amounts of forests, killing living areas for plants, animals, and important insects, all to make profits from the timber.  This act of deforestation is an ongoing issue today.

With such harms done from Deforestation in Latin America, you’d expect it to be easy to stop, but with a massive amount of logging companies in Latin America and outside countries’ economic interest in timber, this dangerous issue may sadly never be resolved despite all the efforts.

You may not be able to reach foreign governments and stop deforestation all at once, but there are a few little things you can do to aid in preventing deforestation.   Click on the link below for a list of things you can do to help if you are interested.

**Things you can do to help stop deforestation**



                Latin America is commonly known for its pure rain forests and all of the different species that inhabit this area. Many scientists consider this region one of the most biodiversity spots in the world, from the Andean Plateaus to the Amazon rainforest and Yasuni Park. Unfortunately, this rich land is being destroyed at an extremely rapid pace in years past and the deforestation issue is continuing to intensify.

                Deforestation is known as taking away and cutting down forests in order to convert this land into another use. This process is often long-term and permanently damaging to the region, and the areas surrounding. The country suffering the most is Ecuador, who has underwent 1.8 percent annual loss of rich forest, which is the largest loss in all of Latin America. To comparatively see its drastic loss, the world as a whole only suffers 0.1 percent. This pressing problem seems to be caused for several reasons, one being cattle ranching and soy bean farming that is seen specifically in Brazil. Since Brazil has transformed into the main source for meat imports at a 75%, the cattle ranching problem is not a surprise. Along with cattle ranching, Brazil is now equal with the United States in leading soybean exporting, which creates a high demand for arable lands that are found once cutting down forests.

                Another reason that people are cutting down forests in Latin America is associated with the drug war dilemma going on. Mainly in Columbia, forests are being destroyed in order to grow drugs such as; cocaine, marijuana and opium. The areas where this is being done is often hidden deep in the remaining forests, which is why there’s a possibility there is more deforestation going on than what is known. Since the drug war is far from being over, this will remain to be an issue that will have to be monitored more efficiently.

                In order to monitor this prompt deforestation, Latin America considered taking several different approaches. One of the approaches being that it is a requirement that 80% of the land in the Amazon be protected and untouchable to anybody. Sadly, recent debates have arisen and this percentage may be reduced because of conflict of interest. Since the dispute occurred, many farmers believed that they would be given more leeway for any deforestation that occurred since the percentage was possibly going to decrease. Actions like this, is directly contributing to the reason why deforestation in Latin America is escalating rapidly and having no stop in sight.

                An area once known for its beautiful rainforest and rich land is slowly being destroyed into land used for cattle ranching, drug use, farming, and oil and mining industries.  This issue must be halted because as the deforestation in Latin America continues to escalate it will soon grow to affect the whole world.

Latin America is portrayed as a region that is struggling to grow. You might have learned about their struggles in the past about their negative growth and increased poverty throughout the region. This allowed International Monetary Fund (IMF) to impose very harsh rules on the region’s economy. What this allowed was for foreign agencies and governments, such as the United States and the European Union, to take control of the most successful businesses and reap their benefits. What this did was make the poverty levels sky rocket. When the economic crisis hit the United States and most of the world, Latin America was hardly affected. Latin America has been growing at a steady rate since 2003. They have managed to have booming exports, rising imports, and large scale poverty reduction while the rest of the world is some sort of recession. The largest thing that Latin America is trying to change is the number of people who are in poverty. Brazil has managed to reduce the number of poor people by 30 million. Venezuela and Argentina have increased their minimum wage, pensions, and increased welfare payments for the ones who need it the most. Since Latin America has been doing so well over the past years compared to the rest of the world people are starting to invest their businesses to the region. According to Alfredo Coutino “Latin American countries have learned from their past mistakes and have corrected the imbalance while bringing inflation under control.” They are not completely unaffected by the bad economies in Europe and the United States, but the new policies that they put in affect make outside impacts less affective.

One of the countries in Latin America that is growing is Colombia. After decades of being known as one of the worst countries to live in has become one of the hottest investment destinations in Latin America. There are so many foreign nationals coming to the country the country is requiring students to study Mandarin and English. It was reported that in the second quarter of 2011 the Colombian economy expanded by 5.2% y/y. Now that Colombia has become a safe place to live, households hare starting to spend their money they have saved for years. Private spending has gone up 80% just in the second quarter of 2011. This is also helping the country by being able to develop their larger cities. The construction in major cities in Colombia has expanded by 8.8% in the second quarter alone. A growing financial sector is also helping the private spending of families. There is some concern that the banking system is being affected by the indirect exposure to the shadow banking system. Another big reason why Colombia is not affect by the economy of other countries is because of their mining. Colombia has a lot of mineral deposits, from precious metals to oil fields. The reason these are being found and used now is because they are mostly located in remote regions of the jungle. During the civil war it wasn’t safe for anyone to go into these remote areas. Billions of dollars are being poured into Colombia for these resources.

For being in such poverty for the longest time, when the recession hit the rest of the world, it was time for Latin America to capitalize. It is about time that they use their own resources to help improve their own countries. For the longest time all their resources were being taken away from other foreign countries. They are now able to get out of the hands of other countries and the IMF. There are only good things that can come out of the wellbeing of Latin America.

The “big five” food exporters are United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union. As of recently, Brazil has become the first tropical agriculture giant to challenge the dominance of the “big five.” Brazil is able to compete because it is the world’s fifth-largest country by geographical area and the largest in terms of arable land. With advancements in scientific research, Brazil’s agribusiness is growing. Even though Brazil is experiencing an economic boom there are setbacks. Brazil’s advancements in research are needed to give it a chance to compete in world markets and provide food for locals.

Four decades ago Brazil’s agribusiness didn’t have professional management, capital markets or new technology. Brazil feared it wouldn’t be able to import enough food and lacked in exports to the rest of the world. As of recently Brazil is experiencing growth in agribusiness. Even though Brazil uses only a fraction of its land, the country produces a highly diverse array of agricultural goods (cotton, soybean, sugarcane, corn, potatoes, etc.). Unlike in Europe and the United States where large amounts of subsidies are granted to help farmers, Brazil has taken a different approach. It started through expanding domestic production through scientific research, not subsidies. With no subsidies, Brazil’s farmers are competing with the world market prices. The research is creating plant varieties to adapt to the region’s soil and climate. Brazil is having a lot of success by encouraging small farms and organic practices.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, there are 20 agribusiness companies in Brazil’s so-called billionaires’ club, where five years ago there were the so-called ‘A,B,C,D’ multinational trading companies—Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM), Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus. Investors are also aiding in the process by giving money to help research. With Brazil’s abundance of land and water, farms in Brazil are much larger than those in the United States. With new technological advancements on the present farms of Brazil, their crop will increase to the point they are producing as much as any of the “top five.”

Even though Brazil is growing economically it is having setbacks. Brazil has deficiencies in infrastructure, including poor transportation and storage facilities, and high port costs, which setback the agribusiness. Other challenges include the need to import fertilizers, environmental pressures and labor issues. These are costing the country more money. Another set back is the 10.75% interest rate, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. With banks reluctant to service high risk sectors, some corporate farms have sought backing from foreign investment funds. Not only money but there is continual deforestationto the Amazon. On they show in 1988 there were 8,127 square miles of deforestation. As of 2009 and 2010 the forests were under 3,000 square miles. Even though agriculture has destroyed the Amazon, their new technologies and higher quality will allow them to produce more crops in the land they already have. Growth will come through better use of existing crop and pasture land, not just the opening of new areas. With the new technology, less land will have to be deforested.

Although Brazil is experiencing setbacks, these are minor to the advancements Brazil has already made. Over time Brazil will continue to grow and become one of the “top five.”



By Jesse Mancuso

The declared drug war in Mexicois approaching its fifth year, and every year the violence by drug cartels and traffickers gets worse.  As reported by El Universal, since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and declared the war on drugs, about 23,000 young people, age 15-29, have been recruited into drug cartels.  In 2008 there were 1,638 people from the age 15-29 who died of suspected drug related attacks.  In 2009 there were 2,511 dead, and in 2010 it continued to rise to 3,741 deaths due to violent attacks.  As a result of the enormous increase in deaths, violent homicide has surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of deaths among young people in Mexico.  The most recent drug related attack occurred in August when gunman raided a casino in Monterrey, Mexico’s wealthiest city, and set the place on fire killing 52 people.  It is assumed that the attack was a result of the local war between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas who are seeking control of the city.  President Calderon has stated the attack on the casino was a result of one main factor, “the movement and sale of drugs to the United States.”  The Mexican president continued to say that:

“Part of the tragedy that Mexicans are living has to do with the fact that we are alongside the biggest consumer of drugs in the world, and at the same time, the biggest vendor of weapons in the world, which pays billions of dollars every year to the criminals who supply them with narcotics.

These … dollars end up arming and organizing the criminals, and places them in their service and against the citizens.

This is why it is my duty, also, to make a call to the society, the Congress, and the government of the United States. I ask them to reflect on this tragedy that we Mexicans and many other countries in Latin America are living, as a consequence, in great part, to the insatiable consumption of drugs in which millions and millions of Americans participate.”

The issue of violence and the drug cartels is becoming an ever growing problem in Mexico.  It is affecting the Mexican community in many ways.  Thousands have lost their lives and families during the war on drugs.  The war on drugs has also influenced younger people’s views towards security and punishments.  According to a survey by the National Autonomous University of Mexico in August, young people from the age of 15-19 years old were the largest group of the sample population to approve of the use of torture and the death penalty to receive information and punish the cartels.  In June the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report urging governments to decriminalize drug consumption and even the legalization of certain drugs, namely marijuana.  The report came about from the current strategies in the war on drugs resulting in more than 38,000 deaths in the past 4 and half years in Mexico and the over $1 billion in aid received from the United States.  However, President Felipe Calderon and the Mexican government have many times stated they to do not agree with the legalization of drugs, but are still open to debate on the issue.


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