Category Archives: Latin America

Former Foreign Secretary of India: ‘West scared of BRICS as it has no control over it’

Amazon tribes vulnerable due to increasing contacts with outsiders: Interview with Scott Wallace

‘Isolated tribes in the Amazon have little protection against what is a mostly lawless wilderness. These rainforest natives are increasingly coming into contact with outsiders, mainly illegal loggers and poachers, and react with alarm to incursions. Footage recently surfaced of a tribe being frightened and alarmed by a low flying aircraft, prompting some to begin questioning whether the modern world should be playing a larger role in protecting these indigenous peoples. RT’s Lindsay France discusses these issues with Scott Wallace, a National Geographic photographer and author of the new book, “The Unconquered.”‘ (RT America)

Death Squads Galore: U.S.-Backed Assassinations Wreak Global Havoc

Alex Kane writes for Alternet:

…The U.S. has denied that it has anything to do with the death squads, claiming it has trained Kenyan security to operate in line with human rights. But those claims are dubious. America’s involvement with Kenya’s anti-terror forces is deep. Since 2003, the U.S. has given Kenya $50 million to fight terrorism; the country is one of the five recipients of U.S. anti-terror financing. And the U.S. and the U.K. provide training for Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab.

The claims of no U.S. involvement are all the more dubious since the U.S. has partnered with Somali militias to hunt down al-Shabaab members, and because of the extensive record of U.S. support for death squads in other countries. Whether in the context of the Cold War or the war on terror, America’s support for death squads has allowed the U.S. to stand back while proxy forces achieve its goals by engaging in the most unsavory of activities: extrajudicial assassinations.

Here are five other countries where the U.S. has supported death squads…


Documentary: Uncovering Pinochet’s Secret Death Camps

The US Helped Overthrow a Democratic Government in Brazil in 1964

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

JFK and Goulart 2We know a lot about the crimes committed by the U.S. government during the Cold War, but there remain areas of Cold War foreign policy almost completely hidden from the public. One of those dark areas is the U.S. role in the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Brazil in 1964.

Yesterday [April 3rd], the National Security Archive posted transcripts of taped conversations in the Kennedy White House about deposing the Brazilian government. April 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the coup.


Brazil armed forces to probe abuses of US backed military dictatorship

From the Associated Press:

AP Photo/Felipe DanaBrazil’s defense minister has agreed to investigate military facilities where human rights abuses are believed to have been committed during the country’s 21-year dictatorship, the National Truth Commission said Tuesday.

The announcement came a day after the 50th anniversary of the coup that launched the dictatorship in the South American nation, and as a melee on the floor of Congress forced the suspension of a special session marking the date.

In a statement on its website, the National Truth Commission said Defense Minister Celso Amorim agreed Tuesday by phone to form inquiry units within the armed forces to probe military installations thought to have been the sites of torture.


Manaus: The Controversial World Cup Host City In The Middle Of The Jungle

Tony Manfred writes for Business Insider:

In 2013, police evicted 5,000 Amazon Indians from an area of rainforest near the city, drawing protests.

In 2013, police evicted 5,000 Amazon Indians from an area of rainforest near the city, drawing protests (Photo: REUTERS/Bruno Kelly)

A lot of people didn’t think World Cup games should be held in Manaus. The Amazonian city is 1,700 miles from Sao Paulo and surrounded by 2.1 million square miles of rain forest.

National team coaches have complained about the oppressive heat and humidity. Brazilians have complained about the exorbitant cost of building a soccer arena in the middle of the jungle — a city so remote that it took a 20-day boat voyage to deliver the steel to build the 42,000-seat stadium.

As these great photos from Reuters, Getty, and the AP show, Manaus is gorgeous (it sits on the banks of the Rio Negro), large (the 7th-biggest city in Brazil), and industrial (its free port is a hub of trade). But given the construction costs, the travel headaches, and the playing conditions, it’s also a head-scratching choice for a World Cup host city.


Colombia wants truth commission after FARC peace deal

Francisco Jara reports of AFP:

A truth commission to probe abuses in Colombia’s half-century-old conflict should be held after, not before, peace is reached with leftist rebels, Bogota’s top negotiator said Sunday.

Humberto de la Calle’s remark was the first government reaction to a proposal raised eight months ago by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in talks between the two sides to resolve their differences.

“There can be no end to the conflict without truth,” said de la Calle, a former Colombian vice president.

The government of President Juan Manuel Santos sees such a commission as “a real instrument for peace and not as a tactical tool for negotiations,” he added.

The FARC, a leftist guerrilla group, has been at war with the state since 1964. Considered Latin America’s longest-running insurgency, the fighting has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced 4.5 million.


World Cup 2014: Rio governor calls in army to take back the favela slums ahead of football tournament

Janet Tappin Coelho reports for The Independent:

It took just 15 minutes for more than 1,000 military police to occupy one of the most violent shanty towns in Rio de Janeiro, as dawn was breaking on Sunday morning. Not one shot was fired during the operation to bring peace to the slum as 21 armoured vehicles rolled into the sprawling favela in the north of Rio. They were accompanied by trucks deploying hundreds of police patrols; pickups carrying more officers with weapons held aloft; the mounted regiment and the dog unit.  More than 130,000 people live in the Complexo do Mare, which has for years been ruled by ruthless drug trafficking gangs.

With the World Cup just two months away, the favelas represent the biggest security crisis facing Rio since it launched the police pacification units (UPPs) programme five years ago. The initiative reclaims lawless territory ruled by drug traffickers in the capital’s slums and replaces it with a police presence. Authorities are hoping to prevent violence in the city’s worst favelas affecting the city during the World Cup, threatening the hundreds of thousands of visitors. For the past 10 days the slum lords and criminal elements have been under siege as Rio’s governor, Sergio Cabral, finally admitted the city needed help to restore law and order on its streets. He called on Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to send in the army. Thousands of troops are expected to arrive this week to continue the peace process, and will stay indefinitely.


Discoveries Challenge Beliefs on Humans’ Arrival in the Americas

Simon Romero reports for The New York Times:

[...] Hidden in the rock shelters where prehistoric humans once lived, the paintings number in the thousands. Some are thought to be more than 9,000 years old and perhaps even far more ancient. Painted in red ocher, they rank among the most revealing testaments anywhere in the Americas to what life was like millenniums before the European conquest began a mere five centuries ago.

But it is what excavators found when they started digging in the shadows of the rock art that is contributing to a pivotal re-evaluation of human history in the hemisphere.

Researchers here say they have unearthed stone tools proving that humans reached what is now northeast Brazil as early as 22,000 years ago. Their discovery adds to the growing body of research upending a prevailing belief of 20th-century archaeology in the United States known as the Clovis model, which holds that people first arrived in the Americas from Asia about 13,000 years ago.


World Cup 2014 Protests, Poverty & Pelé

‘World Cup 2014 is about to kick off in Brazil, but protests have been escalating and even Pelé has become the target and labelled “the traitor of the century.” With widespread corruption, and a lack of basic services for most Brazilians, we look at the reasons for such a backlash against the beautiful game in a country that is as football-crazy as Brazil.’ (The Lip TV)

SIPRI Report: India remains world’s largest arms buyer

Michael Pizzi reports for Al Jazeera:

India remains the world’s largest arms buyer by a huge margin, even as regional rivalries spur the flow of arms to other countries in Asia, according to a report released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). India increased its arms imports by 111 percent in the past five years compared with 2004–08, and it now accounts for 14 percent of the world’s arms imports. The mainly Russian-supplied flow of arms to India dwarfs the imports of its regional rivals China and Pakistan, the second- and third-largest buyers.

…The United States and Russia dominate arms exports — over half the market, combined — but their business has diversified and shifted focus from Europe toward emerging world powers such as India, Brazil and China. Even as European imports declined by a full quarter over the past five years, the volume of global arms sales climbed 14 percent in 2009 through 2013 compared with the previous five-year period, SIPRI found. Because arms sales fluctuate year to year, SIPRI uses a five-year average to provide a more stable measure of trends.


The U.S. Assassination Program in Colombia

Daniel Kovalik wrote in January for CounterPunch:

On December 21, 2013, The Washington Post published a story entitled, “Covert action Colombia,” about the intimate and critical role of the CIA and the NSA in helping to assassinate “at least two dozen” leaders of the Colombian FARC guerillas from “the early 2000s” to and through the present time.   The author of the story, Dana Priest, claims that the story is based on “interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.” While The Washington Post story reads like an advertisement for the CIA and NSA, there are some truths buried in the piece which are worthy of consideration.   The most illuminating statement is that while the CIA and NSA, allegedly in the interest of fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, have assisted the Colombian government in hunting down and murdering Marxist FARC guerillas with U.S.-made smart bombs, “for the most part, they left the violent paramilitary groups alone.”

This is an important point, for as the piece itself acknowledges, the paramilitaries are indeed “violent,” and, with the help of the U.S.-backed Colombian military, have been engaged in a decades-long campaign of terror against the civilian population.    And consequently, the U.S. officially designated the predecessor of the current paramilitaries – that is, the AUC — as a terrorist organization.    Meanwhile, it is well-accepted that both the Colombian paramilitaries and their military allies are major drug traffickers in their own right. In short, the U.S. is aligning with known terrorists and drug dealers in Colombia in the name of fighting terrorism and drugs.   While this may seem preposterous, there is indeed a logic to it.


Colombia closes in on a peace deal that could end world’s longest civil war

Jonathan Watts and Sibylla Brodzinsky write for the Guardian:

The FarcMost voters have known nothing but conflict for their entire lives: when the Farc rose up against the state in 1964, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin and the cold war was at its height. Over the following 50 years, Colombia’s low-intensity war has caused more than 250,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 5 million people as rebels from the Farc, ELN and other leftwing groups clashed with government troops and rightwing paramilitaries.

Many of the armed factions finance themselves through kidnappings and drug trafficking. If a deal can be reached, Santos says the biggest peace dividend for the outside world is likely to be a cut in the supply of cocaine. “If we can agree to fight drug trafficking and substitute coca crops for legal crops it will have a big impact on the world because, unfortunately, for 40 years we have been the principal supplier of that drug.”


Military: 80 percent of Colombian drugs gets to US

Lolita C. Baldor reports for the Associated Press:

The U.S. doesn’t have the ships and surveillance capabilities to go after the illegal drugs flowing into the U.S. from Latin America, the top military commander for the region told senators Thursday, adding that the lack of resources means he has to “sit and watch it go by.” Gen. John Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is able to get about 20 percent of the drugs leaving Colombia for the U.S., but the rest gets through.

Aided by surveillance planes, radar, human intelligence capabilities and other assets, Kelly said he has “very good clarity” on the drug traffickers who are moving the drugs out of Colombia and through the Caribbean Sea. But much of the time, he said, “I simply sit and watch it go by. And because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief in terms of assets to work with in this region of the world.”


Survivors: Pope Francis saved many in dirty wars

Debora Rey reports for the Associated Press:

Gonzalo Mosca was a radical on the run. Hunted by Uruguay’s dictators, he fled to Argentina, where he narrowly escaped a military raid on his hideout. “I thought that they would kill me at any moment,” Mosca says. With nowhere else to turn, he called his brother, a Jesuit priest, who put him in touch with the man he credits with saving his life: Jorge Mario Bergoglio.It was 1976, South America’s dictatorship era, and the future Pope Francis was a 30-something leader of Argentina’s Jesuit order. At the time, the country’s church hierarchy openly sided with the military junta as it kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of leftists like Mosca.

Critics have argued that Bergoglio’s public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too, and they warn against what they see as historical revisionism designed to burnish the reputation of a now-popular pope. But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers’ noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.


Victims of Bolivian military rule ‘erased from history’

From BBC News:

Protest camp outside in La PazThousands of victims of human rights violations committed during 18 years of military rule in Bolivia are being denied access to justice and compensation, according to Amnesty International.  [...] The report – ‘Do Not Erase Me From History: truth, justice and reparation in Bolivia – says that the Andean nation suffers from a lack of political will to uncover the truth of the past, including dealing with the perpetrators of executions, detentions, torture, disappearances and forced exiles.

While recognising that some efforts have been made by successive governments to confront the fallout from the dictatorship period of 1964-82, it says there is still no comprehensive policy to ensure the state meets its international human rights obligations. Union and political activists were among the main groups targeted for persecution under a series of military and authoritarian regimes.

Amnesty International says at least 200 people were summarily executed while more than 150 were victims of forced disappearances. Around 5,000 people were arbitrarily detained – some of whom were tortured – and thousands forced into exile. Its report says the lack of action by the Bolivian government to uncover the full truth condemns the victims to “oblivion”. “Bolivia cannot pass over this black page in its history without reading it all,” says researcher Maria Jose Eva Parada.


Venezuela One Year After Chavez’s Passing: Interview with Miguel Tinker Salas and Ewan Robertson

US judge annuls Ecuador oil ruling against Chevron

From BBC News:

Ecuadoreans protest against Chevron in New York, Oct 13A judge in the US has ruled that lawyers representing Amazonian villagers used bribes to secure compensation worth billions of dollars from oil company Chevron in Ecuador. The latest ruling means that the Amazonian villagers cannot use US courts to enforce the ruling against the American oil company. Chevron had been found guilty in Ecuador of causing environmental damage to the Lago Agrio region. The legal team says they will appeal.

In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ordered Chevron to pay $18.2bn (£11.4bn) for “extensively polluting” the Lago Agrio region. Ecuador’s highest court last year upheld the verdict against Chevron, but reduced the amount of compensation to $9.5bn. The alleged environmental damage was done by Texaco between 1964 and 1990. Texaco was later acquired by Chevron. The American oil firm has always maintained that it cleaned up the area before handing over the oil field to the Ecuadorean government.

It argued that it only lost the case because the legal team representing the villagers paid nearly $300,000 in bribes in Ecuador. US district judge Lewis Kaplan in New York has now ruled that Steven Donziger’s legal team used “corrupt means” to win the 2011 case. Mr Kaplan described the evidence against Mr Donziger’s team as “voluminous”.


Argentina & The Emerging Market Crisis: Interview with James Henry

Brazil: World Cup ‘threat’ from web activists

From BBC News:

Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian online activists are threatening to disrupt the 2014 Fifa World Cup, it has been reported. A group that affiliated itself to the loose collective known as Anonymous said it would target official websites. There have been major protests in Brazil against what some have said is an overly extravagant outlay.

The Brazilian Army admitted it could not provide complete protection, but insisted it would respond to the most likely threats. “We are already making plans… I don’t think there is much they can do to stop us,” one activist – who went by the alias Eduarda Dioratto – told the Reuters press agency.

The activists reportedly said that the World Cup offered an unprecedented global audience and an opportune moment to target sites operated by world football’s governing body Fifa, the Brazilian government and corporate sponsors.


Flashback: Chavez Cites Chomsky at UN General Assembly

Argentine lab finds alternative to pesticides

Argentina’s fertile lands make it one of the world’s great food-producing nations. But farmers there are in a constant battle against insects with environmentalists worried about the side effects from the heavy use of pesticides. (Al Jazeera)

Ecuador pursued China oil deal while pledging to protect Yasuni, papers show

Equador oil mapDavid Hill writes for The Guardian:

The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.

The proposed behind-the-scenes deal, which traded drilling access in exchange for Chinese lending for Ecuadorian government projects, will dismay green and human rights groups who had praised Ecuador for its pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative to protect the forest. Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to indigenous peoples – some of whom are living in what Ecuador’s constitution calls “voluntary isolation”.

The initiative – which was abandoned by Ecuador’s government last year– is seen as a way to protect the Amazon, biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ territories, as well as combat climate change, break Ecuador’s dependency on oil and avoid causing the kind of social and environmental problems already caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorian rainforest.


Was Twitter censored by the Venezuelan government or did a complicit media spread disinformation at Washington’s behest?

Justin Raimondo writes for Antiwar:

[...] There was no censorship of Twitter, either of photos or text. Yet the Bloomberg story went out over the wires, was picked up by every major news outlet in the Western world, and soon achieved the status of the undisputed Conventional Wisdom. Those dirty rotten commies in Venezuela were not only clubbing and shooting their own citizens, but they also were hiding the evidence!

Except they weren’t hiding the evidence: it was and is there for all to see.

Washington’s war on the Chavistas is a matter of public record: the US government has been funding the opposition since the now departed Hugo Chavez came to power, and the heavy hand of the Bush administration was no doubt involved in a 2002 coup attempt – a brazenly stupid move that only served to cement Chavez’s rule.

Governments want to control the flow the information, and the Venezuelan regime is hardly an exception to that inflexible rule. Maduro and his avowedly socialist party have moved to muzzle opposition media outlets, and mobilized mobs of their supporters in order to tamp down rising criticism of their haplessly incompetent rule. The country is a mess, with skyrocketing inflation, endemic shortages of basic necessities, and a crime rate shocking to our delicate Western sensibilities. Yet the Chavistas aren’t stupid: they know they’d face a backlash at home and abroad if they dared clamp down the way some of them would probably like to.


Brazil rations water in 140 cities amid worst drought in decades

The shadow of a hand is seen on the cracked ground of Jaguary dam during a long drought period that hit the state of Sao Paulo in Braganca Paulista, 100 km from Sao Paulo (Reuters / Nacho Doce)From RT:

Water is being rationed to nearly 6 million people living in a total of 142 cities across 11 states in Brazil, the world’s leading exporter of soybeans, coffee, orange juice, sugar and beef. Water supply companies told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that the country’s reservoirs, rivers and streams are the driest they have been in 20 years. A record heat wave could raise energy prices and damage crops.  Some neighborhoods in the city of Itu in Sao Paulo state (which accounts for one-quarter of Brazil’s population and one-third of its GDP), only receive water once every three days, for a total of 13 hours.

Brazil’s water utility company Sabesp said on its website that the Cantareira water system (the largest of the six that provide water to nearly half of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo) is at less than 19 percent of its capacity of 1 trillion liters. The company described the situation at Cantareira as “critical”: the amount of rain registered in the month to January was the lowest in 84 years. Sabesp said the other five water supply systems in Sao Paulo’s metropolitan area were normal for this time of year, however.  The PCJ Consorcio water association said the area would have to see 17 millimeters of rain a day for two months until Cantareira’s water level recovers to 50 percent of its capacity.


What’s going on in Venezuela?

Venezuelan rivals trade blame over protest deaths

From Al Jazeera:

Venezuela’s government and the opposition traded accusations on Thursday after at least three people were shot dead in the worst unrest since protests that followed President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow election victory last year. Thousands of students accompanied by opposition leaders marched through the capital Caracas and other cities on Wednesday, demonstrating over poor security, inflation and a lack of basic commodities, in a further escalation of university protests that took place two weeks ago. A government official said 23 people were injured, 25 arrested, four police vehicles torched and some government offices were vandalised on Wednesday.

Some opposition protesters, many with their faces covered, threw stones and burned tires in what is Maduro’s biggest political test since taking over from the late Hugo Chavez last year. “There will be no coup d’etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue, and the revolution will continue,” said Maduro, who ordered the arrest of an opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez. Opposition and government supporters took to social media to blame their foes for Wednesday’s bloodshed.

The opposition blamed armed pro-government militant groups known as “colectivos” for attacking dozens of their marches over the years, scattering their supporters and spreading fear. Maduro blamed “small fascist groups” that, according to him, infiltrated the opposition protest. He further accused the opposition of wanting to recreate a similar situation that occurred in 2002, when huge street protests led to a coup that briefly ousted Chavez. He later returned to power with the help of loyal soldiers and hundreds of thousands of “Chavistas” who took to the streets to protest the coup.


Rio protest over transport fare rise ends in violence

From BBC News:

Hundreds of people in Brazil have clashed with police during a protest against increased fares for public transport. Commuters were caught up in the violence at Rio de Janeiro’s Central Station during rush hour. Riot police fired tear gas and tried to disperse the crowd, while activists hurled stones and petrol bombs. A cameraman is in a serious condition in hospital after suffering a head injury.

[...]  Last year, similar protests grew into a nationwide movement against corruption and excessive spending ahead of the football World Cup, which Brazil will host in June and July. Those protests began at the end of May 2013 in Sao Paulo, when the local authorities announced ticket prices would rise. The fare increase was revoked after weeks of protests, with the federal government helping the state and municipal authorities to foot the bill.


Uruguay’s president nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for legalizing marijuana

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica (Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins) From RT:

The president of Uruguay has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. According to his advocates, José “Pepe” Mujica’s much talked-about marijuana legalization is in fact “a tool for peace and understanding.”

For the second year in a row, the Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica’s marijuana legalization drive since 2012, insisting that the consumption of marijuana should be protected as a human right, has endorsed his candidacy, along with members of Mujica’s leftwing political party the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (Collective of Uruguayan growers) and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).

Despite an avalanche of global criticism, in late December Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of the popular herbal drug. Under the new law, which comes into full effect in early April, Uruguayans will have several options to gain access to it. The Drugs Peace Institute said that Mujica’s stand against the UN-led prohibition of mind-altering substances is a “symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world.”