Valparaiso – it gets knocked down, it gets up again!

Walking through the main streets of the port area of #Valparaiso #Chile early one morning, it was eerily quiet and deserted, with very little traffic. This though was not the 11 September 1973, the day the military coup against the Allende government started, although perhaps it was a little like that then. This was in fact 20 April 2017, census day, when everyone was required to remain home and be counted. In 1973 they’d been required to remain home or be shot by the military & police in their streets, or bombed by the Chilean navy situated in the port & bay, with their naval guns facing the city. To this day the Chilean navy remains based in Valparaiso, with ships in the port harbour, just a warning perhaps?

The 1973 military coup was one of many knocks taken by Valparaiso over the years – another was the fact that General Augusto Pinochet, the coup leader & soon-to-be dictator, was a son of Valparaiso, born there in 1915. But as ever Valparaiso bounces back, and today is home to the Chilean Congress (since 1990 when Pinochet stepped down), a greatly recovering local economy, and maintains a strong alternative/bohemian culture alongside it’s working class & international roots. Continue reading


Civic strike in Cochabamba / #ParoCivico en #Cochabamba

What a strange day! Awaking in the morning in #Cochabamba Bolivia, to the sound of almost silence? No roar of traffic nor murmur of voices. What is going on? Out on the streets, in the city’s central district, it is eerily quiet. A quick hunt for coffee & wifi access, and a scan of a morning paper, reveals that…today, Thursday 16 March, is a 1-day #ParoCivico or Civic Strike. Organised by the Civic Committee of Cochabamba & supported by the local mayor, it´s specifically against a complicated legal section of a certain law, but more generally against narco-trafficking, and also the sense that the ‘Cocaleros’ (coca growers) receive preferential treatment (ie in relation to taxes).

This is a complicated issue! But we find the city, and probably the whole region, has been shut down by civic action since the very early hours, primarily by the simple tactic of blockading the roads – the key bridges into the city, the key intersections – and therefore ensuring there is no transportation. The blockades are a mix of ‘public transport’ vehicles (busses, taxis/trufis), bins & rubbish, and of course people in the middle of the road. Simple, and very effective. The streets are eerily quiet here in the city centre, and for as far as we are able to walk. Others are walking too, or moving by bike & motorcycle, and a few vehicles circulate within the blockaded areas. (See local media reports here and here in Spanish).
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#IWD2017 solidarity greetings from La Paz, Bolivia

Plenty of events in #La Paz #Bolivia for #IWD2017 and #8MParo and across the country. As this poster shows, many take a slightly more antagonistic approach to IWD than, say, the liberal reformists of the UN, or the party politicians who pay lip service to ‘womens issues’ and ‘womens rights’ – but spend most of the year enacting policies & practices that only serve the interests of patriarchy & capitalism! See brief report here on La Paz midday event; plus here report & video from an action by Mujeres Creando who interrrupted Bolivian TV this morning in protest at a manager accused of sexual harassment. Continue reading

Mass protest shuts Pan American Highway for 11 hours near Lima

pa_norteThe PanAmericana Norte, the northern half of Peru’s section of the Pan-American Highway, was shutdown on Thursday from 7am to 8pm by protesters opposed to new toll booths some 27km north of Lima centre, in the district of Puente Piedra. See great photos & text (in Spanish); good Al Jazeera vid; Ruptly video; timeline of events + pics + vid (in Spanish). This road is the major north-south coastal road in/out of Lima and along the entire Peruvian coastline!

pa_norteprotestThis was the second successive Thursday protest (5 January report in English), although people from nearby neighbourhoods have been protesting since last August. In fact it had been announced late on Wednesday that the toll would be suspended for 30 days, but this didn’t calm the peoples anger. Yesterday’s protest was led by the Mayor of Puente Piedra, and initially marchers shut down the north to south side of the Highway. Matters escalated with both sides of the Highway closed around 27km north of Lima centre, with police firing teargas & rubber bullets and baton charging protesters, who responded with rocks etc and barricaded parts of the Highway, trashing infrastructure & some bridges. Peruvian news coverage has been wide & mixed, generally condemning ‘violent’ protests whilst conceding the protesters have a point! Typical.
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Continua la huelga indefinida en el Poder Judicial, Peru

huelga_cuscoThe indefinite strike by workers in Peru’s Poder Judicial (courts system) continues nationwide, despite increasing pressure from their bosses (article in Spanish). The strike by workers in the FNTPJP union started back on the 22 November (see past blog article) and remains solid. It’s having a significant impact on the court systems – which are in any case slow, and according to many fairly corrupt – and continues to attract media attention.

Here in Cusco strikers banners adorn the front of the Court buildings in Avenida del Sol (very central Cusco), and protests/strike rallies are held in the street outside – in the pic above there were some 100 people involved. This seems to be one of numerous small scale struggles that we have observed going on in Cusco, others have focused on issues such as education (and lack of it), gentrification & tourist developments trashing local communities & historic buildings, and water (again the lack of it generally, nevermind any drinkable water source!).

#potd: Indefinite strike in Peru’s Poder Judicial

poder-judicialIn the four places we’ve been to so far in Peru, we’ve seen the slogan ‘Huelga Nacional Indefinida’ hanging on the bars at the entrances to various of Peru’s courts. On the 22 November in Lima, we saw a street protest on the first day of the strike, that was swamped by riot police when it marched towards Peru’s Congress. Police had also sealed off roads around Lima’s Plaza Mayor in case strikers headed there.

The Poder Judicial del Peru is a part of the government structures, and was first set up in 1825 to manage Peru’s court systems and ensure equality for all before the law (a laughable claim in Peru!). The strikers are employees of the Poder Judicial, and members of the FNTPJP union, the cause of this strike is for better pay & conditions, and because of previous broken promises. It has attractyed significant media interest, especially in Lima.
Info on the Poder Judicial in english & spanish.Background to strike in spanish.
Report on 28 November, largest strikers march to date, in central Lima in spanish.

Into Lima, Peru – with Obama, Putin, Duterte and the gang

So we made it into Lima, Peru in the very very early hours of Saturday 19 November, just a couple hours after Obama, and a wee bit before Putin. The rest of their gang was already here – that’s the Asian Pacific Economic Community/Co-Operation (APEC2016 website), 21 countries bringing freedom, human rights & sustainability via, yes you guessed it, globalisation & free trade.

plan_zoneThis event seems to have been virtually ignored beforehand by west European media, the BBC international website for example only mentioned Lima in days before the event in the context of a huge fire with fatalities at the seafront shopping mall & complex at LarcoMar, in the middle class & touristic area of Miraflores. Continue reading