Category Archives: Latin America

Goldman Sachs Bails Out Maduro

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Who says two amoral and corrupt institutions with diametrically opposing ideologies can’t collaborate to sink even lower together?

Goldman Sachs, infamous investment bank and symbol of international predatory capitalism, has made a devil’s bargain with Nicolás Maduro, the infamous left-wing dictator of Venezuela who claims to despise companies just like Goldman. As Forbes writes:

“What happened is that the Venezuelan Treasury owned some bonds issued by PDVSA, the national oil company. They sold those bonds to Goldman Sachs at a serious discount to face value.”

Maduro’s authoritarian government has been rocked by protests this spring thanks to widespread economic and political devastation. (Maduro blames his country’s problems on an “economic war” waged by Washington.) The most shocking statistic is that 75 percent of Venezuelans are said to have lost at least 19 pounds from food shortages.

The Goldman deal was a win-win for the bank and the dictator. Goldman bought $2.8 billion worth of oil bonds for 32 cents on the dollar, according to the Times of London. Maduro’s regime, in return, immediately gets to stock its coffers with about $865 million.

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The Panama Deception

An Academy Award winning 1992 documentary film about the true reasons for the 1989 US invasion of Panama and the complicity of major media organisations in these activities. (IMDb/Wikipedia)

The Death of Manuel Noriega, and U.S Intervention in Latin America

David A. Graham writes for The Atlantic:

General Manuel Noriega speaks to Panamanian reporters in May 1989.Old soldiers do die, it turns out, but there’s something incongruous about watching ruthless, formerly swashbuckling military dictators end their lives quietly as frail old men in hospital beds.

It happened to Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean strongman, who returned home and died under house arrest in 2006, at 91. Fidel Castro slowly faded from view, becoming even less coherent, before dying at home in November, as his brother slowly rolled back their revolution. And now Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian leader, has died at 83 following complications from surgery to remove a brain tumor. He had been imprisoned in his home country.

Like nearly every Latin American leader of the late 20thcentury, but more intensely than most of them, the three men had complicated histories with the United States, the dominant power in the hemisphere: Pinochet as American ally, Castro as nemesis, and Noriega, ultimately, as both. The tale of American involvement with Noriega, and what came afterward, suggests humbling lessons about U.S. ability to change the course of history in its southern neighbors.

For most of his career, Noriega was an exemplar of a certain kind of American intervention in Latin America: The lawless, vicious leader whom the U.S. cultivated and propped up despite clear and serious flaws. Noriega got involved with the U.S. at a young age, volunteering to inform on leftist students during the Eisenhower administration. He later attend the U.S Army School of the Americas, a training center in Panama that was run by the American military that produced an impressive dishonor roll of despots and murderers across Latin America, as part of a U.S. effort to train domestic resistance to leftist politics in the region. Noriega began receiving payments from the CIA in 1971.

A coup in 1968 brought the military to power in Panama, and Noriega rose to become intelligence chief under General Omar Torrijos, a fellow School of the Americas alumnus who signed the agreement conveying the Panama Canal Zone over from American to Panamanian control. In 1981, Torrijos died in a mysterious plane crash, which an estranged Noriega aide later claimed was Noriega’s doing. By 1983, Noriega effectively controlled Panama.

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The War Between Globalism and Nationalism Is Just Getting Started

Ian Bremmer writes for Time Magazine:

When the storm turns out to be less severe than the warnings, there’s always a sigh of relief–and maybe a bit of over-confidence after the fact. If fans of the European Union felt better after populist Geert Wilders came up short in the Dutch elections in March, they also took heart from the absence of anti-E.U. firebrands among the leading contenders for this fall’s German elections. Then came May 7. The victory of Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections signaled that “the season of growth of populism has ended,” Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said on May 8.

Not so fast. Europeans will soon remember that elections are never the end of anything–they’re a beginning. And whether the issue is unelected Eurocrats’ forcing voters to abide by rules they don’t like or fears that borders are insecure, there are good reasons to doubt that the anti-E.U. fever has broken. France’s Macron now faces powerful opposition on both the far right and the far left. Hungary and Poland are becoming increasingly illiberal. Brexit negotiations are getting ugly. And resentment toward the E.U. is still rising throughout Europe.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump may be pushing what increasingly resembles a traditional Republican agenda, but polls show that his supporters are still eager for deeper disruption. Trump’s embrace of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte suggests a lasting affinity with aggressive strongmen. His chief adviser and nationalist muse, Stephen Bannon, may be under fire, but he’s still there. The Trump presidency has only just begun.

In short, nationalism is alive and well, partly because the problems that provoked it are still with us. Growing numbers of people in the world’s wealthiest countries still fear that globalization serves only elites who care nothing about nations and borders. Moderate politicians still offer few effective solutions.

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Venezuela in Crisis: The Catastrophe the World Has Been Ignoring

E.A. Crunden writes for Think Progress:

[…] Venezuela’s descent into chaos has been ongoing for several years. Once an oil-rich nation with considerable sway in the region, Venezuela is now struggling under the weight of a crumbling economy and devastating food shortages. In February Venezuela was suspended from voting in the U.N. General Assembly over millions of dollars of unpaid debt — the second time in two years.

The country’s current crisis can arguably be traced back to price controls instituted by the government of former President Hugo Chavez. But the problem escalated in 2014, after oil prices plummeted and food shortages became an issue. As food became scarce, rising prices and increasing problems with smuggling caused the situation to spiral. Venezuela now has the world’s fastest-contracting economy and an inflation rate of almost 1,000 percent.

Venezuelans have been fleeing to Colombia and Brazil in an effort to find food and an escape from the country’s escalating crisis. Blackouts caused by electricity shortages are also a fact of life these days. Surveys indicate that 80 percent of medicines are scarce (if available at all), while 50 to 80 percent of food supplies are scarce. Contraceptives, water, toiletries, and paper have also been impacted.

Making the situation far worse is its leadership. Venezuela’s government is not doing much to fix the country’s staggering problems. President Nicolás Maduro claims that efforts to unseat him are a bourgeois plot, one that he has often linked to the United States. And while the United States has historically played a role in destabilizing governments in Latin America, Venezuela’s leader has been a deeply unpopular president.

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Brazil’s Corruption Investigation Expands to Almost Entire Political Class

Gregory Wilpert speaks with analyst Alex Hochuli about how the corruption investigation of Brazilian politicians has expanded dramatically and is less biased against the center-left. However, the danger is that it will lead to de-politicization and opportunistic anti-politics. Hochuli recently published a piece for Jacobin is titled: The Ends of Lava Jato. (The Real News)

Julian Assange Waits for Ecuador’s Election to Decide His Future

Esther Addley, Jonathan Watts and David Crouch report for The Guardian:

Image result for assange ecuadorFor Ecuador’s 15 million inhabitants, Sunday’s presidential election runoff will pose a fundamental question: whether to continue with a leftwing government that has reduced poverty but also brought environmental destruction and authoritarian censorship, or to take a chance on a pro-business banker who promises economic growth but is accused of siphoning money to offshore accounts.

But they are not the only ones for whom the result will be critically important. Thousands of miles away, in the country’s tiny embassy in central London, Julian Assange will be watching closely to see if his four and a half years of cramped asylum could be coming to an abrupt, enforced end.

Guillermo Lasso, the businessman and leading opposition candidate, has vowed that if he wins, the WikiLeaks founder’s time in the embassy will be up. Lasso has said he would “cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate”, because his presence in the Knightsbridge embassy was a burden on Ecuadorian taxpayers.

 

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Colombia Aims to Rid Country of Landmines by 2021

Anastasia Moloney reports for Reuters:

Image result for Colombia aims to rid country of landmines by 2021Colombia, one of the most mined countries in the world, aims to remove all landmines and other explosives by 2021 after the government and FARC rebels signed a peace deal last year, a top government official has said.

Colombia’s left-wing guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), planted thousands of landmines across swathes of the country during its five-decade war against the government.

“Forty percent of the areas that were covered in landmines for the past 25 years are now being cleared to reach the goal of having a Colombia free of anti-personnel mines by 2021,” Rafael Pardo, the government’s post-conflict commissioner, told local media on Monday.

After Afghanistan, Colombia has the second highest number of landmine casualties, with more than 11,500 people killed or injured by landmines since 1990, government figures show.

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Nomi Prins: My Political-Financial Road Map for 2017

Nomi Prins, former managing director at Goldman Sachs and author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, writes:

Happy New Year! May yours be peaceful, safe and impactful!

As tumultuous as last year was from a global political perspective on the back of a rocky start market-wise, 2017 will be much more so. The central bank subsidization of the financial system (especially in the US and Europe) that began with the Fed invoking zero interest rate policy in 2008, gave way to international distrust of the enabling status quo that unfolded in different ways across the planet. My prognosis is for more destabilization, financially and politically.  In other words, the world’s a mess.

Over 2016, I circled the earth to gain insight and share my thoughts on this path from financial crisis to central bank market manipulation to geo-political fall out, while researching my new book, Artisans of Money. (I’m pressing to hand in my manuscript by February 28th – the book should emerge in the Fall.)

I traveled through countries Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, England and Germany, nations epitomizing various elements of the artisanal money effect. I spoke with farmers, teachers and truck-drivers as well as politicians, private and central bankers. I explored that chasm between news and reality to investigate the ways in which elite power endlessly permeates the existence of regular people.

In last year’s roadmap, I wrote we were in a “transitional phase of geo-political-monetary power struggles, capital flow decisions, and fundamental economic choices. This remains a period of artisanal (central bank fabricated) money, high volatility, low growth, excessive wealth inequality, extreme speculation, and policies that preserve the appearance of big bank liquidity and concentration at the expense of long-term stability.”

That happened. Going forward, as always, there’s endless amount of information to process. The state of economies, citizens and governments remains more precarious than ever. Major areas on the upcoming docket include – central bank desperation, corporate defaults and related job losses, economic impact of political isolationism, conservatism and deregulation, South America’s woes, Europe’s EU voter rejections, and the ongoing power shift from the West to the East.

For now, I’d like to share with you some specific items – which are by no means exhaustive, that I’ll be analyzing in 2017.

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More than half the lawmakers impeaching Brazil’s president have been either convicted or investigated themselves

Matt Moffett reports for Quartz:

Dilma Rousseff smiling in the Senate[…] In all, 45 of 81 senators have either been convicted of a serious offense—the crimes include money laundering, embezzlement, and vote buying—or are being investigated for one, according to Transparency Brazil, a watch-dog group.

Among them is senate leader Renan Calheiros, who is named as a suspect in eight investigations related to a massive bribery and kickback scandal in Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. Calheiros resigned from an earlier stint as senate president in 2007, amid allegations that a former mistress was receiving child-support payments funneled through a lobbyist. Then there was “Hairgate”: Calheiros faces an administrative misconduct investigation for using a Brazilian air force jet to transport him to a clinic in northeastern Brazil for hair transplant surgery in 2013.

In the lower house of congress, which has already voted for impeachment, 273 of 513 members are either being investigated or have already been convicted, Transparency found. Some of the cases in the lower house involve even more serious crimes, including forced labor, vehicular homicide, and torture.

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Dave Zirin on Olympic Firsts, Treatment of Russian Athletes and Brazil’s Future

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, who discusses some of the biggest issues surrounding the 2016 Olympics in Rio. You can view part one of this interview here(Democracy Now!)

IOC President Talks a Good Games But Rio 2016 Was a Bumpy Ride

Owen Gibson reports for The Guardian:

[…] The blame for some of the pressures that have threatened to tear at the fabric of these Olympics can be laid squarely at the door of the IOC. Others were the fault of the vainglorious Brazilian politicians determined to add the ultimate seal of international approval to their story of economic growth by hosting the World Cup and Olympics back to back.

It is true to say that Brazil has been assailed by an economic and political hurricane since winning, in 2009, the right to host the Games, on a wave of optimism as one of the emerging BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, China – powerhouses.

Fifa and the IOC have been keen over recent decades to spread the gospel into new territories, largely for commercial reasons. But in doing so they have sought to take all of the upside and leave nothing behind.

The IOC in particular has legions of working groups and committees dedicated to sustainability. In the run-up to the London Olympics there was much talk about a “compact” Games. Bach was elected on the back of his Agenda 2020 reform plan.

But it is largely just talk. The reality is that the IOC is committed to crowd-source decisions from its peculiar membership of minor royals, former athletes and slick sports politicians who play to their own vanity.

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Does Henry Kissinger Have a Conscience?

Jon Lee Anderson writes for The New Yorker:

[…] We have repeatedly reviewed evidence of Kissinger’s callousness. Some of it is as inexplicable as it is shocking. There is a macho swagger in some of Kissinger’s remarks. It could, perhaps, be explained away if he had never wielded power, like—thus far—the gratuitously offensive Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And one has an awareness that Kissinger, the longest-lasting and most iconic pariah figure in modern American history, is but one of a line of men held in fear and contempt for the immorality of their services rendered and yet protected by the political establishment in recognition of those same services. William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, Robert McNamara, and, more recently, Donald Rumsfeld all come to mind.

In Errol Morris’s remarkable 2003 documentary “The Fog of War,” we saw that McNamara, who was an octogenarian at the time, was a tormented man who was attempting to come to terms, unsuccessfully, with the immense moral burden of his actions as the U.S. defense secretary during Vietnam. McNamara had recently written a memoir in which he attempted to grapple with his legacy. Around that time, a journalist named Stephen Talbot interviewed McNamara, and then also secured an interview with Kissinger. As he later wrote about his initial meeting with Kissinger, “I told him I had just interviewed Robert McNamara in Washington. That got his attention. He stopped badgering me, and then he did an extraordinary thing. He began to cry. But no, not real tears. Before my eyes, Henry Kissinger was acting. ‘Boohoo, boohoo,’ Kissinger said, pretending to cry and rub his eyes. ‘He’s still beating his breast, right? Still feeling guilty.’ He spoke in a mocking, singsong voice and patted his heart for emphasis.”

McNamara died in 2009, at the same age Kissinger is today—ninety-three—but his belated public struggle with his conscience helped leaven his clouded reputation. Now that he is nearing the end of his life, Kissinger must wonder what his own legacy is to be. He can rest assured that, at the very least, his steadfast support for the American superpower project, no matter what the cost in lives, will be a major part of that legacy. Unlike McNamara, however, whose attempt to find a moral reckoning Kissinger held in such scorn, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him.

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Celebrity chefs turn wasted Olympics food into meals for homeless

Andrew Jacobs reports for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Guests line up at Refettorio Gastromotiva, a dining hall that serves meals to homeless people, in Rio de Janeiro.Consider what it takes to keep all those Olympian machines nourished and hydrated for one meal at the Rio Games: 250 tons of raw ingredients to fill the bellies of 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials in the Olympic Village.

Now multiply that figure by three — for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and again for each day of the Games.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Italian chef Massimo Bottura also did the math and was inspired, not by the tantalizing dimensions of herculean consumption but by the prospect of colossal waste.

“I thought, this is an opportunity to do something that can make a difference,” said Mr. Bottura, 53, a fast-talking blur of a man whose restaurant in Modena, Osteria Francescana, recently earned the topaward from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

On Thursday night, that something looked like this: In a fraying section of downtown Rio, a pack of the world’s most venerated chefs were rushing around a slapdash kitchen amid a crush of volunteers as they improvised a dinner for 70 homeless people.

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Henry Kissinger hindered U.S. effort to end mass killings in Argentina, according to files

Uki Goñi reports for The Guardian:

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger jeopardized US efforts to stop mass killings by Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship by congratulating the country’s military leaders for “wiping out” terrorism, according to a large trove of newly declassified state department files.

The documents, which were released on Monday night, show how Kissinger’s close relationship to Argentina’s military rulers hindered Jimmy Carter’s carrot-and-stick attempts to influence the regime during his 1977-81 presidency.

Carter officials were infuriated by Kissinger’s attendance at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina as the personal guest of dictator Jorge Videla, the general who oversaw the forced disappearance of up to 30,000 opponents of the military regime.

At the time, Kissinger was no longer in office after Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election, but the documents reveal that US diplomats feared his praise for Argentina’s crackdown would encourage further bloodshed.

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Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: Dave Zirin on Rio 2016

Amy Goodman speaks to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, about the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Democracy Now!)

Brutal Crackdowns, Hidden Poverty: How Preparations for the Rio Olympics Hurt Afro-Brazilians

Daniela Gomes reports for The Root:

A Brazilian military police officer patrols after entering the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest favela complexes in Rio de Janeiro, on March 30, 2014.Over the next few weeks, Aug. 5-21, the city of Rio de Janeiro is going to host the 31st Olympic Games. Like a mother preparing her home for 500,000 tourists, Rio has swept the city’s poverty under the rug by increasing police and army presence in favelas. As a result, part of the local population isn’t that anxious about the games. Militarized police presence and violence are only some of the issues that have affected the Afro-Brazilian population living in Rio since the possibility of sports mega events such as the World Cup in 2014, and now the Olympic Games, became a reality in Brazil.

“Urban segregation in Rio de Janeiro was aggravated with the preparation to receive the sports mega events,” anthropologist Luciane O. Rocha, a researcher at the Nucleo de Estudos da Cidadania Conflito e Violência Urbana of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, told The Root. “While the investments in housing and the majority of the spatial structure for the games were constructed in privileged areas, to the poorest areas were destined only violent actions from the policy and the army.”

Since 2014, the black population of Rio has complained that the government has been increasing police presence in favela communities, which aggravates an already problematic issue of violence between the poor and the police. Also, in 2014, Rio de Janeiro’s former governor Sergio Cabral requested the presence of military forces in the state to help pacify favela communities. More than 20,000 military officers are reported to be part of the security force for the Olympics. But it isn’t just the increased police presence that has many concerned; racial profiling of poor black youths inside the public transportation has also increased, and some have reportedly been denied access to wealthy neighborhoods close to beach areas.

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Poverty in Rio: Why Brazilians Can’t Afford Tickets to Their Own Olympic Games

James Dennin writes for Mic:

While there are certainly good reasons to be excited about the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one group has been less enthusiastic about the games: actual Brazilians.

Their reasons are complex, and residents say preparations for the Olympics have been a missed opportunity to reduce violence and elevate the poor. In fact, there’s evidence poverty and disorder are actually on the rise because of the games.

But perhaps the most notable fact, illustrating the uncomfortable paradox of hosting the Olympics in a developing country, is that many Brazilians can’t even afford tickets to the events. In 2014, Rio’s mayor promised to give away 1.2 million tickets for free to students and the poor: To date, the city has set aside 47,000 tickets — only 4% of his promise.

The problems don’t end there.

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Brazil’s Billionaire Problem

Patrick Iber reports for New Republic:

Just over two years ago, in April 2014, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century was published in English and took the top spot on the New York Timesbestseller list. Piketty’s book struck a nerve, helping to disseminate several ideas—among them that capitalism doesn’t automatically generate a reasonable or equitable distribution of income and that paying attention to the wealthiest 1% is necessary to understanding politics. Piketty focused on the concentration of wealth in 19th and 20th century France, the U.K., and the United States, places where the most data was available for those periods. But if Piketty had been—instead of an economist—a reporter working to understand the world that extremes of inequality have made today, he wouldn’t have looked at those rich countries. He might well have chosen to focus on Brazil, as Alex Cuadros has done in his new book Brazillionaires.

Cuadros, a reporter for Bloomberg, arrived in Brazil in 2010 with a Piketty-worthy mission: to investigate the lives not of the 1% but of the 0.0001%. Part of his job was to rank Brazil’s billionaires on Bloomberg’s global wealth list—a kind of “U.S. News and World Report” rankings of the superrich—as well as to report on their business deals and their personal lives. In Brazillionaires, he has consolidated and shaped those profiles into a propulsive and engaging portrait of modern Brazil.

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Buildup to Rio 2016 part of a chaotic and shameful tradition of Olympic hosts

David Goldblatt, author of The Games: A Global History of the Olympics, writes for The Guardian:

The final days of preparation before the first modern Games in Athens in 1896 offered many of the tropes that still structure Olympic coverage a century later. Rumours persisted that the stadium would not be ready on time, leading to a furious exchange of letters in The Times. The New York Times correspondent came to dig for dirt and found it. “There were plenty of old tin cans and rubbish scattered where once the silver Ulysses sparkled to the sea: the grove of Academe reminded me of picturesque bits in shanty town.”

The refurbished stadium for the 1920 Antwerp Games, started just 15 months beforehand, was finished perilously late. The French occupation of the Ruhr and the flooding of the Seine in the winter of 1923 put Paris 1924 in question. The architect of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic complex was harried in the local press for shady practices and sweetheart deals. Los Angeles 1932 was held in the very depth of the great depression. All feel remarkably familiar stories, not just from the distant past but from pretty much every Olympic Games since Atlanta 1996.

Yet in April 2014 John Coates, a visiting member of the IOC, declared the preparations for the Rio Games “the worst ever”. Two years later, the already disastrous state of affairs has been conjoined with Brazil’s sharpest ever economic slowdown, the impeachment of the president by a corrupt parliament, the nation’s most explosive corruption investigation which is cutting a scythe through the political and business classes, and the threat of the Zika virus. To this has now been added the Russian doping scandal and the IOC’s hapless response to it. Coates’s case looks strong but how exactly do the Rio Olympics match up to the past?

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Rio 2016: Let the Games Begin

Jules Boykoff, author of Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics, writes for Jacobin:

The Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro rests between the Turano and Mangueira shantytowns. Sergio Moraes / ReutersThe 2016 Rio Olympics start next month, and the lead-up is getting downright gruesome. A couple weeks ago, mutilated body parts washed up on Copacabana Beach, just meters away from the Olympic beach volleyball court. Before that, a Brazilian military official slayed Juma — a captive jaguar trotted out to drum up excitement for the games — during the Olympic torch relay.

These ghastly quirks seem to set these games apart. But Rio 2016 just extends practices that have become common in twenty-first-century Olympiads.

In fact, the killing of Juma may well be an apt — if grim — metaphor for working people stuck in today’s Olympic cities: sentient beings restrained in the service of a militarized spectacle that’s rigged to benefit the rich. The Olympics are a bonanza for the ruling class, and Rio shows us this in an extreme form.

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Credibility of Brazil’s Interim President Collapses as He Receives 8-Year Ban on Running for Office

Glenn Greenwald reports for The Intercept:

Michel TemerIt has been obvious from the start that a core objective of the impeachment of Brazil’s elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was to empower the actual thieves in Brasilia and enable them to impede, obstruct, and ultimately kill the ongoing Car Wash investigation (as well as to impose a neoliberal agenda of privatization and radical austerity). A mere 20 days into the seizure of power by the corruption-implicated “interim” President Michel Temer, overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that to be true: Already, two of the interim ministers in Temer’s all-white-male cabinet, including his anti-corruption minister, have been forced to resign after the emergence of secret recordings showing them plotting to obstruct that investigation (an investigation in which they, along with one-third of his cabinet, are personally implicated).

But the oozing corruption of Temer’s ministers has sometimes served to obscure his own. He, too, is implicated in several corruption investigations. And now, he has been formally convicted of violating election laws and, as punishment, is banned from running for any political office for eight years. Yesterday, a regional election court in São Paulo, where he’s from, issued a formal decree finding him guilty and declaring him “ineligible” to run for any political office as a result of now having a “dirty record” in elections. Temer was found guilty of spending his own funds on his campaign in excess of what the law permits.

In the scope of the scheming, corruption, and illegality from this interim government, Temer’s law-breaking is not the most severe offense. But it potently symbolizes the anti-democratic scam that Brazilian elites have attempted to perpetrate. In the name of corruption, they have removed the country’s democratically elected leader and replaced her with someone who — though not legally barred from being installed — is now barred for eight years from running for the office he wants to occupy.

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Team GB Fencer Laurence Halsted: Olympic Athletes Must Exercise Their Right to Speak Beyond Their Sport

Team GB fencer Laurence Halsted writes for The Guardian:

As a Team GB fencer in my hometown Games at London 2012 and part of the squad for Rio this summer, I have spent my whole life working towards the Olympics. But I feel torn looking at the protests in Brazil as I prepare for Rio.

It would be irresponsible not to take notice of the outcry in Rio around hosting the Olympics while the health and social wellbeing of everyday cariocas suffer. If I were Brazilian I would be on the streets too. As an athlete proud to represent my country at the Games, I have been forced to grapple with the fact that the Olympics come with negative side effects for the host nation. Silence in the face of such injustice could be wrongly interpreted as implicit approval.

Controversy has stalked the hosting of recent Games. Just look at the vast cost and subsequent abandonment of infrastructure in Athens, the harrowing human-rights problems in Beijing and the massive overshooting of the original budget in London at a time of economic depression. With three months to go until Rio, Brazil is struggling through the midst of a brutal recession to prepare for the world’s biggest sporting event. I’m sure they will be a fantastic Games for most, but at what cost to the host community?

As an Olympic athlete I care deeply about the future of the Games. The current model of staging increasingly extravagant Olympics is unsustainable and cannot, in all good conscience, continue. There is much that can be done, but mainly I ask: “Should we, as athletes, make a stand?”

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In Wake of Coup, Should Brazil’s Olympics Be Moved or Become a Site of Protest? Interview with Dave Zirin and Jules Jules Boykoff

Amy Goodman speaks with Dave Zirin, author of the Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, and Jules Boykoff, author of Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics, about the forthcoming Olympics in Rio and whether the games should be moved or be used as to highlight a raft of domestic grievances in the country. (Democracy Now!)

Still Selling Neoliberal Unicorns: The US Applauds the Coup in Brazil, Calls It Democracy

Greg Grandin writes for The Nation:

Brazil Impeachment ProtestDilma Rousseff, Brazil’s recently deposed president, calls it a coup. Many, perhaps most, of the countries in the Organization of American States call it is a coup. Even the men who helped carry out the coup admit, in a secretly recorded conversation, that what they were doing was effectively a coup, staged to provide them immunity from a corruption investigation.

But the United States doesn’t think that the blatantly naked power grab that just took place in Brazil—which ended the Workers’ Party’s 13-year control of the presidency, installed an all-white, all-male cabinet, diluted the definition of slavery, lest it tarnish the image of Brazil’s plantation sector (which relies on coerced, unfree labor), and began a draconian austerity program—is a coup.

It’s democracy at work, according to various Obama officials.

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Venezuela Drifts Into New Territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown

Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres report for The New York Times:

[…] The growing economic crisis — fueled by low prices for oil, the country’s main export; a drought that has crippled Venezuela’s ability to generate hydroelectric power; and a long decline in manufacturing and agricultural production — has turned into an intensely political one for President Nicolás Maduro. This month, he declared a state of emergency, his second this year, and ordered military exercises, citing foreign threats.

But the president looks increasingly encircled.

American officials say the multiplying crises have led Mr. Maduro to fall out of favor with members of his own socialist party, who they believe may turn on him, leading to chaos in the streets.

Old allies like Brazil, whose leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, was removed this month pending an impeachment trial, are now openly criticizing Venezuela. José Mujica, the leftist former president of Uruguay last week called Mr. Maduro “crazy like a goat.”

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Operation Condor: South American Genocide

Brazil Crisis Deepens as Evidence Mounts of Plot to Oust Dilma Rousseff: Interview with Maria Luisa Mendonça

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Maria Luisa Mendonça, director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights, after a key figure in Brazil’s interim government has resigned after explosive new transcripts revealed how he plotted to oust President Dilma Rousseff in order to end a corruption investigation that was targeting him. (Democracy Now!)

New Political Earthquake in Brazil: Is It Now Time for Media Outlets to Call This a “Coup”?

Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman and David Miranda report for The Intercept:

Brazil today awoke to stunning news of secret, genuinely shocking conversations involving a key minister in Brazil’s newly installed government, which shine a bright light on the actual motives and participants driving the impeachment of the country’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The transcripts were published by the country’s largest newspaperFolha de São Paulo, and reveal secret conversations that took place in March, just weeks before the impeachment vote in the lower house was held. They show explicit plotting between the new planning minister (then-senator), Romero Jucá, and former oil executive Sergio Machado — both of whom are formal targets of the “Car Wash” corruption investigation — as they agree that removing Dilma is the only means for ending the corruption investigation. The conversations also include discussions of the important role played in Dilma’s removal by the most powerful national institutions, including — most importantly — Brazil’s military leaders.

The transcripts are filled with profoundly incriminating statements about the real goals of impeachment and who was behind it. The crux of this plot is what Jucá calls “a national pact” — involving all of Brazil’s most powerful institutions — to leave Michel Temer in place as president (notwithstanding his multiple corruption scandals) and to kill the corruption investigation once Dilma is removed. In the words of Folha, Jucá made clear that impeachment will “end the pressure from the media and other sectors to continue the Car Wash investigation.” Jucá is the leader of Temer’s PMDB party and one of the “interim president’s” three closest confidants.

It is unclear who is responsible for recording and leaking the 75-minute conversation, but Folha reports that the files are currently in the hand of the prosecutor general. The next few hours and days will likely see new revelations that will shed additional light on the implications and meaning of these transcripts.

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With Rousseff Out, Brazil’s Interim President Installs Conservative All-White, All-Male Cabinet: Interview with Andrew Fishman

Amy Goodman talks to Andrew Fishman of The Intercept, who discusses the role of the United States in protests against Rousseff, and the background of Temer’s new Cabinet members. (Democracy Now!)