Category Archives: Latin America

Chileans baffled by persistent bomb attacks

Gideon Long reports for BBC News:

Police cordon off a bank in Santiago where a home-made explosive device went off‘Santiago is generally regarded as one of the safest capital cities in Latin America, so it comes as something of a shock to visitors to find out that it has been hit by around 200 bomb attacks over the past decade.

[...] The bomb attacks started in 2005. Since then, around 200 devices have been planted across the capital.

Two-thirds have gone off while bomb disposal experts have defused the rest. A handful of bombs have also exploded in provincial Chilean cities.

About a third of the bombs have been placed outside banks but other targets have included police stations, army barracks, churches, embassies, the headquarters of political parties, company offices, courthouses and government buildings.

Most have been timed to go off at night when the streets are largely empty, and only a handful of passers-by have been injured, none seriously.’

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Ecuadorean police jailed for assassination attempt on President Correa

BBC News reports:

The president is rescued from the National Police Hospital by an elite police special operations unit on 30 September 2010‘Six Ecuadorean police officers have been given 12 years in jail for trying to assassinate President Rafael Correa. The six took part in a mutiny in 2010 during which officers besieged the president at a Quito hospital.

One of Mr Correa’s bodyguards was killed when the mutineers opened fire on the president’s car as he finally left the hospital after 12 hours. The police were protesting over cuts to their benefits, but the demonstrations snowballed into a full-scale mutiny.

A lawyer for the officers said they were considering an appeal. A total of 40 people have been convicted for their role in the mutiny.’

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Brazil presidential candidate Campos killed in plane crash

UPDATE: It has been reported in the Brazilian media that it may have been a drone that caused Campos’ aircraft to crash.

Reuters reports:

‘Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos was killed in a plane crash on Wednesday, throwing the October election and local financial markets into disarray. A private jet carrying Campos and his entourage crashed in a residential area in bad weather as it prepared to land in the coastal city of Santos. The accident killed all seven people on board, the Sao Paulo state fire department said. Campos, 49, was running on a business-friendly platform and was in third place in polls with the support of about 10 percent of voters. While he was not expected to win the Oct. 5 vote, he was widely seen as one of Brazil’s brightest young political stars and his death instantly changes the dynamics of the race.

Some analysts said that Campos’ death could make it harder for President Dilma Rousseff to win a second term, especially if his running mate Marina Silva runs in his place, as allowed by electoral law. A renowned environmentalist and former presidential candidate, Silva is better known nationally than Campos and could eat into Rousseff’s support among leftist and younger voters. Silva’s religious beliefs also make her hugely popular among evangelical Christian voters, an increasingly important demographic in Brazil. Silva’s popularity could get an additional boost from an outpouring of sympathy in the wake of Campos’ death.’

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Argentina Sues U.S. In World Court To Stop Vulture Fund Billionaire: Interview with Greg Palast

‘Greg Palast: President Obama has failed to exercise his authority to stop a New York judge from ordering Argentina to pay vulture fund billionaire Paul Singer debt worth pennies on the dollar’ (The Real News)

Amazon tribe makes first contact with outside world

From AFP:

Amazon tribespeople photographed by Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai) after they apparently made contact for the first time with the outside world.‘Isolated native people likely to be fleeing attacks in Peru have turned up in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where they made contact with the outside world, according to a video released by the country’s indigenous authority.

Brazilian experts have said the tribespeople probably crossed the border as they had come under pressure from illegal logging and drug trafficking at home. The tribe, part of the Pano linguistic group, made contact with the Ashaninka native people of northern Brazil in late June.’

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Stiglitz on Argentina’s default: “This is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system”

Peter Eavis and Alexandra Stevenson write for The New York Times:

‘[...] The campaign against Argentina shows how driven and deep-pocketed hedge funds can sometimes wield influence outside of the markets they bet in. George Soros’s successful wager against the pound in 1992 affected Britain’s relationship with Europe for years.

While Mr. Singer’s firm has yet to collect any money from Argentina, some debt market experts say that the battle may already have shifted the balance of power toward creditors in the enormous debt markets that countries regularly tap to fund their deficits. Countries in crisis may now find it harder to gain relief from creditors after defaulting on their debt, they assert.

“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”’

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Latin America’s military is making a comeback

Simeon Tegel reports for The Global Post:

‘It was a momentous day for Latin America: On March 11, 1990, Augusto Pinochet, the region’s last military dictator, finally handed power to an elected civilian president. Since then, democracy has put down roots in the Americas to such an extent that few expect a repeat of the bloody coups that frequently punctuated the region’s history.

But now, across Latin America, the military is flexing its muscles once again and taking on more central roles in society, including in ways that experts warn are posing subtler risks to constitutional rule.

The most obvious way is the armed forces’ increasingly upfront participation in crime fighting, with the public, media and politicians demanding a “mano dura,” or firm hand, against rampant street violence and ruthless drug cartels.’

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Seumas Milne: We must end this collusion with terror in Colombia

Seumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

kenyon‘[...] This is the reality of Colombia today. But it’s not, of course, the story sold by the Colombian government and its US and British backers. As far as they’re concerned, the peace talks with the Farc are heading for success after Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president last month on a peace ticket.

Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.

A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.’

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U.S. court throws out Chiquita terror payment claims

The Associated Press reports:

A divided U.S. appeals court on Thursday threw out claims against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.

A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

Chiquita, based in the U.S., formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.’

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Bolivia becomes first nation to legalise child labour

Jack Simpson reports for The Independent:

‘Bolivia has become the first country to legalise child labour after a law was signed by Vice- President  Alvaro Garcia Linera on Thursday. The new legislation was first approved by Congress earlier this month, and now the signature from Linera means the age that children can legally work is to be lowered from 14 to 10.

Under the new legislation, children above the age of 10 will be allowed to become self-employed workers as long as they have enrolled in school and have the permission of their parents. Children over the age of 12 will be permitted to take on contract work, again with parental consent and compulsory school attendance.

The law to lower the age in which children can legally work, is all part of the Bolivian government’s plan to help Bolivians living in poverty. It is hoped that adding another wage to a family’s income could alleviate the financial burdens that a large proportion of Bolivians face.’

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Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz Hails New BRICS Bank Challenging U.S.-Dominated World Bank & IMF

‘A group of five countries have launched their own development bank to challenge the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Leaders from the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — unveiled the New Development Bank at a summit in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza. The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai. Together, BRICS countries account for 25 percent of global GDP and 40 percent of the world’s population. To discuss this development, we are joined by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and the World Bank’s former chief economist. “It’s very important in many ways,” Stiglitz says of the New Development Bank’s founding. “This is adding to the flow of money that will go to finance infrastructure, adaptation to climate change — all the needs that are so evident in the poorest countries. It [also] reflects a fundamental change in global economic and political power. The BRICS countries today are richer than the advanced countries were when the World Bank and the IMF were founded. We’re in a different world — but the old institutions haven’t kept up.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

China’s President offers to build a railway across South America

From the Business Standard:

‘Firming up ‘s engagement with resource-rich Latin America, President Xi Jinping has offered to build a railway network across the continent, considered the backyard of the US.
During his meet with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on the sidelines of BRICS summit in Brasilia yesterday, Xi proposed that China, Peru and  form a working group to promote cooperation on the project.

He suggested that a trilateral working group be established to guide their cooperation in all related aspects including planning, design, construction and operation of the transcontinental railway, state run China Daily said today. Experts say collaboration on the railway project, which would run from the Peruvian Pacific coast to the Brazilian Atlantic coast, will be a good example of China’s positive impact on the Latin American continent, the Daily said.’

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Chile invokes anti-terrorism laws after device explodes in subway

Rosalba O’Brien reports for Reuters:

The government plans to use anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute those responsible for an explosive device which detonated in an empty metro carriage. Photo via @Dip_Calderon‘The Chilean government said on Tuesday it will invoke anti-terrorist laws in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the explosion of a homemade device on a Santiago subway train late Sunday night. The incendiary device, which had been placed inside a backpack, caused minor damage and no injuries. No one has claimed responsibility.

Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said on Tuesday that the government has decided the attack was serious and subject to the anti-terrorism laws. “We think the intention was to hurt innocent people,” he said. The laws, which date from the 1973-90 rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet, give prosecutors more powers and allow for harsher sentencing. The government has been criticized for using them in a long-running and often violent struggle with indigenous Mapuche activists over land rights in southern Chile.’

Jim Rickards: BRICS Development Bank A Significant Step Away From The Dollar

Nafeez Ahmed: World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs, say NGOs

Nafeez Ahmed writes for the Guardian:

A Kenyan farmer tends newly planted trees‘Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations. Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.

The concentration of ownership of the world’s farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing.” Less known factors, however, include ‘conservation‘ and ‘carbon offsetting.”

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‘Lost’ Amazonian tribe under threat from illegal loggers operating in their traditional territories

Jonathan Brown reports for The Independent:

‘At first they were little more than fleeting sightings of naked figures on the edge of the forest. But as the days went by, the men and boys grew bolder, venturing into the village to pilfer pots and vegetables before disappearing back into the safety of trees. After they were first glimpsed by other people on the outskirts of an Asháninka indigenous community on the upper reaches of Brazil’s Envira River, “a few dozen” members of an unnamed Amazonian tribe finally made contact with a settled population 20 days ago. That came four years after a tribal group, reportedly from the same Amazonian tribe, were filmed from the air in 2010. When the images were released in January 2011, they created a worldwide sensation.

It is believed the tribe had been driven across the border from their centuries’ old nomadic existence by the activities of illegal loggers and possibly drug-traffickers operating in their traditional territories in Peru. Brazil’s Indian Affairs Department, Funai, confirmed that the group had taken the momentous decision to make contact at the village of Sympatico in the state of Acre, more than a week’s travel by foot and canoe from the nearest road. Sympatico, just 25 miles from the border, is very close to the area where a tribe group was filmed four years ago. It is estimated that there are at least four such communities living in Acre, constituting a population of around 600. A further two tribes are believed to occupy territory in Peru. But no one knows exactly how many individuals there are now living in the pristine forest of the western Amazon.’

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Venezuela accused of forging Maduro assassination plot evidence

Reuters reports:

‘Venezuelan officials used forged emails to accuse government adversaries of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro, according to a private investigation firm hired by one of the accused.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May said a group of ardent government critics were preparing to “annihilate” Maduro as part of a planned coup, showing images of emails they said were evidence of the plot.

The images of the emails showed “many indications of user manipulation,” according to the report released on Tuesday by Kivu Consulting. Records subpoenaed from Google also showed that messages attributed to consultant Pedro Burelli had never actually been sent, the report added.’

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Chilean Court Rules U.S. Had Role in Murders

Pascale Bonnefoy reports for The New York Times:

The United States military intelligence services played a pivotal role in setting up the murders of two American citizens in 1973, providing the Chilean military with the information that led to their deaths, a court here has ruled.

The recent court decision found that an American naval officer, Ray E. Davis, alerted Chilean officials to the activities of two Americans, Charles Horman, 31, a filmmaker, and Frank Teruggi, 24, a student and an antiwar activist, which led to their arrests and executions.

The murders were part of an American-supported coup that ousted the leftist government of President Salvador Allende. The killing of the two men was portrayed in the 1982 film “Missing.”’

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Peru now has a “licence to kill” environmental protesters

David Hill writes for the Guardian:

Peruvian security forces arrest a protester in June 2009 during conflict that led to more than 30 people dying and over 200 injured. ‘Some of the recent media coverage about the fact that more than 50 people in Peru – the vast majority of them indigenous – are on trial following protests and fatal conflict in the Amazon over five years ago missed a crucial point. Yes, the hearings are finally going ahead and the charges are widely held to be trumped-up, but what about the government functionaries who apparently gave the riot police the order to attack the protestors, the police themselves, and – following Wikileaks’ revelations of cables in which the US ambassador in Lima criticized the Peruvian government’s “reluctance to use force” and wrote there could be “implications for the recently implemented Peru-US FTA” if the protests continued – the role of the US government?’

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UN committee backs Argentina over Falkland Islands

Alexandra Olsen reports for the Associated Press:

‘A United Nations’ committee approved a new resolution calling on the UK and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Falkland Islands, essentially favouring Argentina’s stance in the long-running feud. The 24-nation Decolonization Committee passed the resolution by consensus despite passionate speeches from two Falkland Islands representatives who said most islanders wanted to keep things as they are.

The decision showed that the committee members have been largely unmoved by a referendum in the Falkland Islands last year in which more than 99 per cent of voters favoured remaining a British Overseas Territory. The UK has rebuffed Argentina’s calls to negotiate the sovereignty of the south Atlantic islands, saying it is up to people who live there to decide. Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman attacked the UK for ignoring dozens of UN resolutions urging the two countries to talk.’

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Cuba’s Raul Castro urges defence of ally President Maduro in Venezuela

From AFP:

‘Cuban President Raul Castro warned allies on Saturday that Havana’s closest ally Venezuela needed support amid fallout from deadly anti-government protests. “Venezuela today needs our staunchest support,” Castro, 83, said in a rare international speech at a Group of 77 and China meeting in Bolivia.  “The oligarchs who could not get rid of President Hugo Chavez think the time has come to topple the Bolivarian revolution and President (Nicolas) Maduro,” Castro argued, calling the elected socialist government in Caracas “the front line of independence, freedom and dignity”.

Maduro is the closest regional ally of Cuba, the region’s only one-party communist state. Venezuelan economic support is critical to keeping the Cuban government and economy afloat. Cash-strapped Havana still has a centrally planned economy and cannot get access to international loans, and Venezuela supplies it with cut-rate oil. But inflation near 60 percent, widespread shortages of basic goods and soaring crime have plunged Venezuela — an oil-rich OPEC member — into political and economic crisis.’

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Ghana footballer Sulley Muntari giving away money in Brazil

World Cup fans of all stripes revel on beach despite Fifa’s colonising

Hadley Freeman writes for The Guardian:

‘Rio is, simply, the most fun of the host cities and so plenty are simply staying here instead of traipsing around the country, happy to catch whatever games come. The biggest presence on the beach by far, after Brazil fans, are the Argentinians, but there are also plenty of Russia, America, Australia, France and, yes, England fans, or to use the American journalist Adrian Chen’s phrase, the Sad English. But the World Cup is not all classic Rio joy, and neither is Copacabana. At one end you find the deadening corporate fist of Fifa thumping down into the sand with Fan Fest. Those who have never been to a World Cup are, in all likelihood, living in currently blissful ignorance of Fan Fest. That bliss shall now be shattered.

Back in 2002, Fifa noticed how popular the free screenings of the games were in the host cities, so they decided that, as they were making so much money out of the rest of the World Cup, it would be ridiculous not to cash in on this, too. So since 2006, there have been Fifa Fan Fests, which are perhaps best described as a festival with all the worst things of a festival, and some football: gigantic adverts for precious corporate sponsors are everywhere and, while entrance is free, the miles and miles of Fifa-branded tat on sale is certainly not, ranging from R$30 (£7.90) face paint to R$480 (£126) bottles of Fifa wine. It all adds nicely to the untaxed billions Fifa will gleefully reap in Brazil, as they squat in the country like a greedy bullfrog on a lilypad.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

“A Neo-Liberal Trojan Horse”: Dave Zirin on Brazil’s Mass Protests and Abolishing FIFA

Two years later, Julian Assange remains trapped in Ecuadorian Embassy: Interview with Wikileaks lawyer Michael Ratner

U.S. Supreme Court Preserves Power of Finance Over Argentina: Interview with Bill Black

Dispatches From Brazil’s World Cup: ‘No One Lives Here Anymore’

Dave Zirin writes for The Nation:

What is left of Favela do Metro.‘Favela do Metro was once a community of 700 families living a five-minute walk—just up the Rua São Francisco Xavier—from Rio’s legendary Maracanã Stadium. Now it’s a couple of storefronts and a tonnage of rubble. All of the 700 families are gone, uprooted by a World Cup agenda that looked at their homes and envisioned parking lots for the Maracanã. Even that was too much for city planners, as the parking lot has yet to be built, with the World Cup already underway. Perhaps it will be ready for cars by the start of Rio’s 2016 Olympics. When I asked one of the former favela residents, hanging around a food stand, to explain the delays, he said, “If they can’t finish the World Cup stadiums, do you really think they care about this place?”

Instead, all around are empty lots—case studies in demolition, with the jagged remnants of what were once people’s homes there for all to see. There are dolls with missing heads and limbs, couches without cushions and razor-sharp exposed springs, and a sink leaning precariously on a mountain of wood shavings. The owners’ memories have become someone else’s garbage. On one wall is spray-painted, “What happened to the families? No one lives here anymore.”’

READ MORE @ THE NATION…

Documentary: The Other Side of Brazil’s World Cup

Editor’s Note: You can also catch VICE’s Dispatches from Brazil here. And you can follow Tim Pool on Twitter here.

Brazil 2014: Inside the World Cup’s ever-escalating security arms race

Ariel Bogle writes for The Week:

Riot police patrol the Santinho beach in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina state‘International mega-events like the FIFA World Cup are part of an ever-escalating, increasingly expensive security tech arms race that may have lasting repercussions for the privacy of citizens in host countries. So far, Brazil has reportedly spent almost $900 million not only on 150,000 or so personnel, but also on U.S. military bomb-disposal robotsa bunch of Israeli drones, a British mobile scanner that can spot a plastic 3D printed pistol, and ninety Chinese-built X-Ray Inspection systems, not to mention, facial recognition goggleshigh-tech surveillance helicopters, and digital command centers, and much more besides.

High-tech security gadgetry inside and outside of the stadiums is by no means unique to Brazil. Each new city must replicate and surpass the security of previous hosts. The recent Sochi Winter Olympics featured the VibraImage, which detected agitated visitors by measuring facial and muscle vibrations. Police during the 2012 London Olympics could keep an eye on every corner of the city with their expanded CCTV surveillance camera system. And South Africa’s 2010 World Cup had a quantum cryptography system to thwart hackers. Minority Report-esque armed guards with facial recognition goggles are perhaps not the image FIFA would endorse for the World Cup. But as Colin Bennett and Kevin Haggerty note in their book, Security Games: Surveillance and Control at Mega-Events, security, as for the World Cup, is now part of the “Olympic ritual.” So how did we get here? History, powerful stakeholders, and the chance for host countries to secure a significant security legacy.’

READ MORE @ THE WEEK…

Brazil 2014: A World Cup for Corporations

Marta Molina writes for Waging Nonviolence:

copa‘In Brazil there’s always room for soccer. Anywhere. On the street, on the beach, on improvised fields. It is played barefoot, with shoes, in stadiums, as part of a team or among friends. Even the great players, Pelé, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, or Neymar began playing this way. A visitor to Brazil can find goals in the most inhospitable places, in the countryside, in cities, in the jungle, in indigenous villages or in favelas. But as the sport has turned into an industry, that playful, collective game, with its beauty born of the joy of playing for the sake of playing, has begun to disappear.

The World Cup 2014, which will be the privilege of a few and a headache for many, has sparked unprecedented organizing against FIFA. In 11 of the 12 cities that will host one of the games, social movements have united under the banner of the People’s Committees to demand that citizens’ human rights stop being violated for the sake of an event in which few will be able to participate. Members from all sectors of society and many existing social movements have joined in the organizing, including the São Paulo metro workers, who yesterday, on the eve of the cup, declared a strike to demand higher wages and protest the firing of fellow employees.’

READ MORE @ WAGING NONVIOLENCE…