May 4, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Miners go on strike in Peru

As expected, the metal miners federation in Peru went on strike this week, but other unions have not joined them so far. The federation represents only about 22,000 of the approximately 110,000 miners in Peru overall. Given the heavy demand and high prices for metals on global commodities markets, this shows how weak the labor movement in Peru (and much of Latin America) has become over the past twenty years. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether the impetus toward competitive, free-market economic policies can be restored in the near future. That's not a likely prospect, so chances are that labor negotiations will boil down to squabbling over what share of the pie will be allocated among workers and owners -- as opposed to reaching a dynamic new social compact along the lines of east Asian countries. See

Castro is still infirm

Many people, including Bolivian President Evo Morales, had expected the ailing dictator Fidel Castro to make a dramatic appearance at the May Day parades in Havana this year, but it did not come to pass. Castro did issue a public statement, however, and it contained an interesting criticism of U.S. policy to promote the use of ethanol bio-fuel in Latin America, on the grounds that it would lead to increased exploitation of workers. As a large sugar exporter, Cuba would stand to benefit greatly from increased production of ethanol, but Castro's main ally -- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela -- depends above all on petrodollars, and bio-fuels would reduce his export revenues. See