Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.
A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate provides for regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation.
Backers of the law, some smoking joints, gathered near Congress holding green balloons, Jamaican flags in homage to Bob Marley and a sign saying: “Cultivating freedom, Uruguay grows.”
Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.
When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams (about 17 ounces), and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.
Registered drug users should be able to start buying marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April.
Global players’ union Fifpro believes Fifa considers the demands of TV companies of “greater importance” than the health and safety of the players.
Fifa said this week that it will not change the 2014 World Cup kick-off times despite concerns about the heat.
Games kicking off at 13:00 in the north west of Brazil will likely take place in very hot and humid conditions.
In a statement, Fifpro said it wants “effective measures to guarantee [players'] health and safety”.
The World Cup and the Olympics are being used as a pretext for “social cleansing” as tens of thousands of Rio slum dwellers are driven out to the city periphery, favela residents say.
While millions of eyes turn to north-eastern Brazil for the World Cup draw on Friday, poor communities in Rio de Janeiro are still struggling to be heard as they fight against evictions they say are related to the city’s mega sporting events.
Next year, Rio will host seven games, including the final, followed in 2016 by the Olympics. The city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, describes this as an opportunity for the city to modernise and create a legacy for future generations. But many of those on the frontline of change feel they are the victims of social cleansing.
- Drug boss Pablo Escobar still divides Colombia
- Colombia Farc rebels to play Valderrama peace match
- As Colombia’s presidential race heats up, peace talks take center stage
- Colombia: peace talks stymied over coca
- FARC peace may cut Colombia cocaine, but synthetic drugs new scourge
- Famed ex-hostage runs for Colombia president
- Colombia uncovers Farc plot to kill ex-president Uribe
[...] Stories such as Conceição’s are increasingly common in South America’s largest country, whose economy has been fueled in recent years by consumer spending — often financed at sky-high interest rates. Economists say many shoppers have reached the limits, and many in Brazil are waking up to a credit hangover.
Government-controlled banks led the charge, issuing payday loans and credit cards to juice consumption and help power the nation through the 2008 financial crisis. Private banks got in on the act, helping to expand loans for cars, household appliances and electronics.
Credit soared. Over the last five years, the ratio of outstanding debt to gross domestic product jumped to 56% from 31%. But in a country where credit cards have annual interest rates of 120% or more, defaults have risen and credit expansion has slowed, particularly among the middle class and working poor.
[...] Until recently, credit was off-limits to average people. More than 40 million Brazilians have risen from poverty since center-left Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva took over as president in 2003. His administration urged state banks to open up the spigot to consumers, an emphasis that continued under his successor, Dilma Rousseff.
Economists say Brazil’s government was right to expand consumer credit as a stimulus during the crisis. But many say the country would have benefited more from higher state spending on education, healthcare, roads and other infrastructure to raise living standards over the long term.
Venezuela’s National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year so that he can fix the economy.
Tuesday’s vote over the Enabling Law is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protégé of the late President Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.
The decree will essentially allow Maduro to create laws without parliamentary approval.
He says he needs greater personal power to stamp out opponents who are waging “economic warfare against his government” as the country struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.
[...] Monday’s remarks were a contrast to Mr. Kerry’s comments in April before Congress, when he said that the U.S. must pay more attention to Latin America because it is in the U.S. “backyard,” awakening Latin American ire and fear of a return to a more muscular U.S. approach to the region.
Still and all, the Obama administration’s shift on Latin America it isn’t entirely new. By giving more leeway to big regional players such as Colombia and Brazil, and not getting too worked up about the anti-American antics of strongmen in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the administration has tried to put U.S.-Latin American relations on a new footing.
And there was a ready-made guide in the last four years of the George W. Bushadministration, which started the shift away from a heavy-handed approach to the Americas and a move toward mulitlateral diplomacy.
[...] immunity for Franco’s helpers may be about to end. In Argentina, Judge María Servini de Cubría of the first chamber of the Federal Criminal Court in Buenos Aires issued international arrest warrants for four former Spanish police officers in mid-September. They include some of the tormentors of Galante and Chivite. At least two of them are still alive: Jesús Muñecas and Juan Antonio González Pacheco. There is “tremendous symbolic value” to Argentina’s decision to demand the extradition of Franco’s officers, 38 years after his death, says Chivite.
The Spanish attorney general’s office refuses to have them arrested, and for Spanish citizens there is no threat of extradition. Nevertheless, a judge on the Spanish National Court wants to summon both former police officers to determine whether they are willing to testify voluntarily before Servini.
To this day, the Spaniards have not legally come to terms with the crimes committed by the Franco regime against the leftists on the losing side of the civil war. The cases now being looked into in Argentina occurred during the time period from the coup against the elected government of the Spanish Republic on July 17, 1936, to the first free parliamentary elections on June 15, 1977. The parties of the left, which had been brutally persecuted for four decades, agreed to an amnesty law at that time to help facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy.
But now a wave of lawsuits is heading toward Spain.
Britain is “violating” the human rights of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by its continued refusal to allow him to leave London, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa told AFP in an interview Friday.
Speaking during a visit to Paris, Correa said Assange’s future was “in Britain’s hands” as the Australian-born activist marks almost a year-and-a-half spent holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
“If (they) want to keep him there for 30 years, he’ll stay there 30 years, but that would violate his human rights,” Correa said.
Correa maintained that the offer of asylum he first made to Assange in August 2012 remained open, and added that he had the right “to demand asylum in the country of his choice”.
For the first time in their 50-year struggle, Colombia‘s leftist Farc rebels have agreed to give up the use of violence to reach their political ends in exchange for full participation in democratic politics – a major breakthrough in peace talks between one of the oldest guerrilla movements in the world and the government of Juan Manuel Santos.
Farc and government negotiators, who have been meeting in Havana for a year, announced the partial agreement on Wednesday on the political participation of the guerrillas, which would take effect only once a broader agreement to end the country’s conflict was reached.
Brazil’s justice minister has defended his country’s spying activities, saying they were “completely different” from those carried out by the United States.
Jose Eduardo Cardoso said agents who photographed US, Russian and other diplomats in Brazil were acting lawfully.
Allegations about agents’ activities were leaked in the national press.
Reports of email and phone spying on Brazil have prompted President Dilma Rousseff to postpone a visit to the US.
Brazil’s counter-intelligence activities reports have caught the attention of the international media, with the New York Times saying they put Brazil in an “uncomfortable position” after it had harshly criticised the US authorities.
The issue of drones came up last Friday before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and one of the speakers was Santiago Canton, an Argentine lawyer who was the commission’s former executive secretary and now is director at the RFK Partners for Human Rights, a Washington advocacy group.
Canton said 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean now deploy drones or have already purchased them. Others have hosted U.S. drones.
[...] In most cases, drone usage is under military control with no civilian oversight. With the exception of Brazil, Canada and the United States, there are no regulations for domestic use of drones, Canton said.
“We see the chilling effect that this can have on societies … When people want to have public demonstrations, drones can have a chilling effect and can intimidate people from doing this.”
So even as the United States debates its drone policy, the issue is percolating South of the Border.
Venezuela’s foreign minister says efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations between his country and the United States remain frozen.
Elias Jaua says relations won’t improve as long as the United States keeps up what Venezuela’s government considers “interventionist activities,” including spying on foreign leaders.
Jaua said at a news conference in Mexico City that he isn’t surprised the United States spied on the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He says the acknowledgment to The New York Times by the U.S. government make it difficult for Venezuela to have a good relationship with Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jaua had agreed to meet last June to work on restoring relations, but new tensions arose and they didn’t follow up.
Some 1,500 secret files, dating back to the years of military rule in Argentina, have been discovered in Buenos Aires.
They were found in an abandoned wing of the Air Force headquarters.
The files contain the transcripts of all meetings held by the military junta, which ruled the country from 1976 to 1983, said Defence Minister Agustin Rossi.
The documents also name famous artists and intellectuals who were blacklisted.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for the liberation of Latin America from Twitter, arguing that the American company attacked 6,600 accounts, including his own.
[...] According to a Thursday statement from the president, Maduro’s Twitter account was attacked to spark unrest and suspend the upcoming December 8 elections.
Communications Minister Delsy Rodriguez stated that nearly 6,600 of the leader’s Twitter followers disappeared from the president’s account within 10 minutes. No details were provided regarding the time of the attack. As of Friday, Maduro had 1.4 million followers.
The opposition has been criticizing the president for obsessing over social media and not paying enough attention to the country’s economic problems.
Since his election as Venezuelan president in April, Maduro has spoken about a number of alleged plots against his government – including five attempts on his life.
The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.
They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth.
“States may have few other options than to follow in Brazil’s path,” said Ian Brown, from the Oxford Internet Institute. “This would be expensive, and likely to reduce the rapid rate of innovation that has driven the development of the internet to date … But if states cannot trust that their citizens’ personal data – as well as sensitive commercial and government information – will not otherwise be swept up in giant surveillance operations, this may be a price they are willing to pay.”
The US debt is merely a fiction. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists, Ecuadorian economist and President Rafael Correa told RT Spanish.
Correa believes that what he calls ‘supremacy of capital’ is what makes the world immoral. The recent economic crises in the US and Europe did not undermine the foundations of their economies, as they retain the production capabilities, science and technology. Their problem is political.
“It’s all about scrambling for power,” Correa told RT. “This is a political rather than economic crisis; this is a problem of social accord,” he said about the US public debt crisis.
Argentina’s Supreme Court has ruled that a media bill passed in 2009 is constitutional – clearing the way for the break-up of large media groups.
The country’s biggest broadcasting and newspaper company, Clarin, had appealed against the law proposed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Critics say the bill is an attempt to silence opposition voices in Argentina.
Supporters say it will boost pluralism and reduce the dominance of big corporate interests.
The National Security Agency eavesdropped on hundreds of phone numbers belonging to dozens of world leaders, newly leaked documents supplied by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden reveal.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper wrote Thursday that a classified memo provided to them by Mr. Snowden suggests that the NSA encouraged officials within the United States government and intelligence community to share among their colleagues contact information pertaining to international heads of state.
According to the Guardian, the memo made reference to an unnamed US official who had reportedly supplied the NSA with over 200 numbers, including 35 belonging to world leaders.
“These numbers plus several others have been tasked,” or monitored, reads the memo.
The leaders themselves are not identified in the memorandum, but classified documents previously disclosed to the media by Mr. Snowden have suggested that the NSA spied on conversations involving citizens of France, Germany, Brazil and elsewhere.
- The U.S. Has Been Spying on France Since Before the NSA Existed (Foreign Policy)
- With allies like these, who needs enemies? (Guardian)
- White House on French NSA complaint: ‘all nations’ spy (AFP)
- US Won’t Say If They Tapped Merkel’s Phone (Antiwar)
- Liar Clapper: French Spy Report ‘Misleading’ (Antiwar)
- Mexico slams U.S. over claims that NSA hacked president’s email (McClatchy)
- REMINDER: U.S. Looks to Re-Up Its Mexican Surveillance System (Foreign Policy)
- EU Parliament Urges Suspending Data Deal with US (AP)
- Watchdog: NSA spied on 124.8 billion phone calls in just one month (Yahoo!)
- REMINDER: NSA Spied on Brazil Oil Company, Petrobras (FDL)
- Canada’s eavesdropping agency defends practices after Brazil spying report (CTV)
- Brazil announces secure email to counter US spying (AFP)
- Indian High Commission returns to typewriters (Telegraph)
Venezuela says two light aircraft have been shot down after entering the country’s airspace over the weekend.
These were the first mid-air attacks by fighter jets since a bill authorising such action against illegal planes was approved earlier this month, the Bolivarian Armed Forces said.
The aircraft were allegedly smuggling drugs from Central America and refused to follow the military pilots’ orders.
Another 11 unauthorised planes have been disabled on the ground this year.
Venezuelan security forces say more than 35 tonnes of drugs have been found this year.
In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back The Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G20 Summit. A senior Toronto Police Commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deskman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. (Democracy NOW!)
It has long been clear that the NSA spying program is being used for industrial espionage, by spying on large foreign corporations, and the biggest financial payments systems such as VISA and Swift. Indeed, in a slide leaked by Edward Snowden, “economic” was one of the main justifications for spying.
And it has long been known that the “Five Eyes” – the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand – share their spying information amongst themselves.
So it should not come as a total surprise that other members of the Five Eyes – such as Canada – are also engaged in industrial espionage.
Specifically, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show that Canadian spies targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry.
The government’s repudiation of this serious and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty and the rights of people and companies.
Keith Murphy, CEO of Defence Intelligence – an Ottawa-based information security company – said economic interests are at the root of the alleged espionage, and noted:
It’s scary a little bit the level of co-operation between the agencies. Now we’ve got solid proof from some of the slides that were released to say that not only had Canada penetrated these systems, but they are actively sharing that data with the U.S.
Even the former head of the Canadian spy agency said that the agency needs more oversight.
[...] The deployment of so-called Police Pacification Units aims to wrest control of poor hillside neighborhoods from drug gangs and bring down violent crime in the city that will play host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
But the police tactics have come under scrutiny after 10 members of one pacification unit were arrested this week in the torture-slaying of a bricklayer who disappeared in July from Rocinha, the city’s largest favela with 70,000 inhabitants.
Amarildo de Souza’s disappearance set off protests by outraged residents demanding authorities explain what happened to him.
His body has not been found, but investigators say he was tortured to death by members of a pacification unit who were seen on a surveillance tape taking him into custody.
Brazil will probably scale down its plans for new nuclear plants due to safety concerns following the 2011 radiation leak in Japan and pick up some of the slack with a “revolution” in wind power, the head of the government’s energy planning agency said.
Mauricio Tolmasquim, chief of the Energy Research Company, told Reuters it was “unlikely” the government would stick to its plans to build four new nuclear plants by 2030 to meet rising demand for electricity.
He declined to specify how many might be built instead.
Tolmasquim’s comments, part of a broad assessment of Brazil’s long-term strategic plans for electricity generation, highlighted continued global doubts regarding nuclear power more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami led to an accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
Shortly after being informed of the U.S. National Security Agencies (NSA) spying activities, President Dilma Rouseff asked ministers Paulo Bernardo (Communication) and Jose Eduardo Cardozo (Justice) to include in the Marco Civil da Internet, a charter of Brazilian Internet users, a mechanism that allows the suspension of operation of companies that cooperate with international spying schemes. “It could apply to banks, or telephone companies,” said the Minister of Communication.
According to Vega BI the security of sensitive data could also be guaranteed by multinational surveillance companies, given that a large part of the increasing demand for surveillance in the World Cup will be supplied by sector giants – the same companies that provide equipment and software to police forces all over the world, including the American government and the NSA.
Most of them are mentioned in the recent publication by Wikileaks, part of the Spy Files 3 project, a compilation of 249 documents from 92 companies, among them brochures, contracts and metadata referring to some of the business leaders of the sector. They show that, in relation to mega-events,Brazil has become a priority for the global surveillance industry.
Chiquita Brands International, giver of bananas and well-known supporter of Colombian death squads, is trying to get a federal appeals court to block a lawsuit brought against it by the families victimized by their paid mercenaries. And they might just get away with it.
Chiquita has long had large banana plantations in Colombia, and admitted in 2007 that it funded a para-military organization to the tune of $1.7 million over a seven-year period in the 1990′s. The group, AUC, was supposed to defend Chiquita against the extortion of the guerrilla group FARC, but instead began massacring civilians and engaging in the same type of terrorism practiced by those they were supposed to be fighting against. Essentially, a Charlotte-based company paid for the deaths of at least 4,000 civilians.
Chiquita paid a $25 million fine to the U.S. government in 2007 for their involvement in supporting a terrorist group. Now, the families of the Colombians killed want the fruit conglomerate to pay for the deaths of their loved ones, and Chiquita is fighting against it tooth and nail.
- A Banana Republic Once Again? (PR Watch)
- Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World (NY Times)
- Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (Sourcewatch)
- United Fruit Company (Sourcewatch)
- Ethical shopping guide to Bananas (Ethical Consumer)
- Colombia’s Nationwide Strike Against ‘Free Trade,’ Privatization, Poverty (Common Dreams)
- Colombia orders militarization of Bogota, highways (Press TV)
- Another round of Columbia-FARC peace talks ends (Press TV)
- Colombian soldiers have been killing mentally ill civilians and selling their bodies to the government (Vice)
- Paramilitarism in Colombia (Wikipedia)
OTHER RECENT NEWS:
- ‘US airspace denial for Maduro is payback for offering asylum to Snowden’ (RT)
- US grants Venezuela permission to enter airspace (AFP)
- Venezuela leaves international human rights body (Al Jazeera)
- Latin America–United States relations (Wikipedia)
- CELAC: Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Wikipedia)