Category Archives: Latin America

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!)

New President of Brazil Moves to Appease Foreign Investors: Interview with Professor Alfredo Saad Filho

Gregory Wilpert talks to Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, who analyzes the economic implications of the new government of Brazil, following Rousseff’s removal from office. (The Real News)

Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal is Installed

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

In 2002, Brazil’s left-of-center Workers Party (PT) ascended to the presidency when Lula da Silva won in a landslide over the candidate of the center-right party PSDB (throughout 2002, “markets” were indignant at the mere prospect of PT’s victory). The PT remained in power when Lula, in 2006, was re-elected in another landslide against a different PSDB candidate. PT’s enemies thought they had their chance to get rid of PT in 2010, when Lula was barred by term limits from running again, but their hopes were crushed when Lula’s handpicked successor, the previously unknown Dilma Rousseff, won by 12 points over the same PSDB candidate who lost to Lula in 2002. In 2014, PT’s enemies poured huge amounts of money and resources into defeating her, believing she was vulnerable and that they had finally found a star PSDB candidate, but they lost again, this time narrowly, as Dilma was re-elected with 54 million votes.

In sum, PT has won four straight national elections – the last one occurring just 18 months ago. Its opponents have vigorously tried – and failed – to defeat them at the ballot box, largely due to PT’s support among Brazil’s poor and working classes.

So if you’re a plutocrat with ownership of the nation’s largest and most influential media outlets, what do you do? You dispense with democracy altogether – after all, it keeps empowering candidates and policies you dislike – by exploiting your media outlets to incite unrest and then install a candidate who could never get elected on his own, yet will faithfully serve your political agenda and ideology.

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Glenn Greenwald: Goal of Rousseff Impeachment is to Boost Neoliberals and Protect Corruption

Amy Goodman speaks to Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of The Intercept, who says: “People have started to realize, internationally but also here in Brazil, that although this impeachment process has been sold, has been pitched as a way of punishing corruption, its real goal, beyond empowering neoliberals and Goldman Sachs and foreign hedge funds, the real goal is to protect corruption.” (Democracy Now!)

To See the Real Story in Brazil, Look at Who is Being Installed as President and Finance Chiefs

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] As my partner, David Miranda, wrote this morning in his Guardian op-ed: “It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext.” In response, Brazil’s media elites will claim (as Temer did) that once Dilma is impeached, then the other corrupt politicians will most certainly be held accountable, but they know this is false, and Temer’s shocking support for Cunha makes that clear. Indeed, press reports show that Temer is planning to install as attorney general – the key government contact for the corruption investigation – a politician specifically urged for that position by Cunha. As Miranda’s op-ed explains, “the real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.”

But there’s one more vital motive driving all of this. Look at who is going to take over Brazil’s economy and finances once Dilma’s election victory is nullified. Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that Temer’s leading choice to run the central bank is the chair of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, Paulo Leme. Today, Reuters reported that “Murilo Portugal, the head of Brazil’s most powerful banking industry lobby” – and a long-time IMF official – “has emerged as a strong candidate to become finance minister if Temer takes power.” Temer also vowed that he will embrace austerity for Brazil’s already-suffering population: he “intends to downsize the government” and “slash spending.”

In an earning calls last Friday with JP Morgan, the celebratory CEO of Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior SA, Rubens Amaral, explicitly described Dilma’s impeachment as “one of the first steps to normalization in Brazil,” and said that if Temer’s new government implements the “structural reforms” that the financial community desires, then “definitely there will be opportunities.” News of Temer’s preferred appointees strongly suggests Mr. Amaral – and his fellow plutocrats – will be pleased.

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The Real Reason Dilma Rousseff’s Enemies Want Her Impeached

David Miranda writes for The Guardian:

The story of Brazil’s political crisis, and the rapidly changing global perception of it, begins with its national media. The country’s dominant broadcast and print outlets are owned by a tiny handful of Brazil’s richest families, and are steadfastly conservative. For decades, those media outlets have been used to agitate for the Brazilian rich, ensuring that severe wealth inequality (and the political inequality that results) remains firmly in place.

Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs. This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation – heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar?

For more than a year, those same media outlets have peddled a self-serving narrative: an angry citizenry, driven by fury over government corruption, rising against and demanding the overthrow of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and her Workers’ party (PT). The world saw endless images of huge crowds of protesters in the streets, always an inspiring sight.

But what most outside Brazil did not see was that the country’s plutocratic media had spent months inciting those protests (while pretending merely to “cover” them). The protesters were not remotely representative of Brazil’s population. They were, instead, disproportionately white and wealthy: the very same people who have opposed the PT and its anti-poverty programmes for two decades.

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Is the U.S. Backing Dilma Rousseff’s Ouster in Brazil? Interview with Mark Weisbrot and Andrew Fishman

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez talk to economist Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and The Intercept’s Andrew Fishman, about efforts to impeach and remove Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from office. (Democracy Now!)

Argentina Attempts to Silence TeleSUR and Other ‘Undesirable Media’: Interview with Pedro Brigier

Sharmini Peries talks to Pedro Brigier, journalist and professor at the University of Buenos Aires, who says Argentinians view the government’s dissociation from TeleSUR as the loss of one of the only alternative voices for news in Latin America. (The Real News)

Johan Cruyff: How Can You Play Soccer Next to a Torture Center?

TeleSUR writes:

Cruyff dazzled fans with this trickery and rejected Argentina’s brutal dictatorship in an unmatched soccer career.

Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest soccer players of his generation, and perhaps ever, missed the 1978 FIFA World Cup held in Argentina as he didn’t want to play close to the torture chambers the right-wing government had set up to house dissidents of the regime.

“How can you play soccer a thousand meters from a torture center?” he is quoted as saying before the tournament.

The South American nation was in turmoil at the time of the competition after a right-wing coup, led by General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti, overthrew Isabel Peron’s democratically elected government two years before.

The dictatorship, which was backed by the U.S., led to brutal repression of the Argentine people with as many 30,000 people forcibly disappeared by the regime.

Argentina’s political instability couldn’t be ignored by Cruyff, who was aged 31 at the time and winding down his illustrious career. So he pulled out of the Netherlands squad in a move that infuriated Dutch soccer officials.

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Discovering America’s Role in Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’

It was a military rule where thousands were killed or went missing. In Argentina, US President Barack Obama will mark the 40th-anniversary of what people there call the ‘dirty war’.  Activists want him to declassify files which are suspected to show US involvement. (Al Jazeera)

Obama Honors Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ Victims, Faults U.S. on Human Rights

Jeff Mason reports for Reuters:

President Barack Obama said the United States was too slow to condemn human rights atrocities during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship as he honored victims of the “Dirty War” on Thursday, but he stopped short of apologizing for Washington’s early support for the military junta.

Obama’s state visit to Argentina coincided with the 40th anniversary of the coup that began a seven-year crackdown on Marxist rebels, labor unions and leftist opponents, during which security forces killed 30,000 people.

“There has been controversy about the policies of the United States early in those dark days,” Obama said while visiting a memorial park in Buenos Aires dedicated to victims of the dictatorship.

“Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for. And we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights and that was the case here,” he said.

Obama’s trip, winding up later on Thursday, is part of a wider effort to deepen ties and bolster U.S. influence with Latin America after years of frosty relations with left-leaning governments in the region.

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Brazil Facing Worst Political Crisis In Over Two Decades: Interview with Glenn Greenwald

Narmeen Sheikh and Amy Goodman talk to Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist based in Brazil and co-founder of The Intercept, about Brazil’s worst political crisis in over two decades. (Democracy Now!)

Argentina’s Presidential Giveaway to Vulture Funds: Interview with James Henry

Greg Wilpert talks to economist and journalist James S. Henry who analyzes the new conservative Argentine president’s economic policies and his effort to appease “vulture” funds. (The Real News)

Is Zika Virus Linked to Deforestation? Interview with Robert G. Wallace

Sharmini Peries talks to evolutionary biologist and public health expert Robert G. Wallace who discusses the Zika virus and its links to deforestation and climate change, as well as the re-emergence of mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and malaria. (The Real News)

Vulture Capitalists Are the Real Winners of Argentina’s Elections: Interview with James Henry

Jessica Devereux talks to Economist James Henry who explains how the new conservative president of Argetina will make vulture capitalists like Paul Singer turn a $43 million loan into a $1.5 billion return. (The Real News)

Release of TPP Full Text Shows Victory for Corporate Rights: Interview with Margaret Flowers

Jaisal Noor talks to Margaret Flowers, a co-director of Popular Resistance and a candidate for U.S. in Maryland. In this interview Flowers challenges President Obama’s claim that the trade deal will promote a strong middle-class. (The Real News)

The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade

Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh wrote for Project Syndicate prior to TPP agreement:

As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

For starters, consider what the agreement would do to expand intellectual property rights for big pharmaceutical companies, as we learned from leaked versions of the negotiating text. Economic research clearly shows the argument that such intellectual property rights promote research to be weak at best. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: When the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, it led to a burst of innovation that resulted in better tests at lower costs. Indeed, provisions in the TPP would restrain open competition and raise prices for consumers in the US and around the world – anathema to free trade.

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What Washington Isn’t Saying About the TPP ‘Victory’: Interview with Manuel Pérez-Rocha

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is a policy analyst at Institute for Policy Studies. In this short interview he says that the stated purpose of the agreement, to eliminate tariffs, has distracted people from its more subtle goal of protecting corporate profits by establishing a judicial system that prioritises the big multi-nationals. (The Real News)

Consumer Groups Slam the TPP as ‘NAFTA on Steroids’: Interview with Robert Weissman

Amy Goodman talks to Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, about the agreement reached this past Monday between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional trade accord in history. The agreement has been negotiated for eight years in secret and will encompass 40 percent of the global economy. The secret 30-chapter text has still not been made public, although sections of draft text have been leaked by WikiLeaks during the negotiations. Congress will have at least 90 days to review the TPP before President Obama can sign it. The Senate granted Obama approval to fast-track the measure and present the agreement to Congress for a yes-or-no vote with no amendments allowed. (Democracy Now!)

The Making of Leopoldo López

Roberto Lovato writes for Foreign Policy:

The Making of Leopoldo López In the nearly year and a half since street protests rocked Caracas, the U.S. press has been kind to Leopoldo López, the 44-year-old jailed leader of Venezuela’s radical opposition. He has been painted as a combination of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and his distant grand uncle, SimónBolívar, for his magnetic brand of in-your-face politics. Newsweek wrote of his “twinkling chocolate-colored eyes and high cheekbones” and called López a “revolutionary who has it all.” The New York Times published a photo of him, jaw out, fist in the air, in front of a crowd of screaming protesters and gave him a platform on its op-ed page. In New York, when the United Nations met last September, protestors rallied to show support for López, and President Barack Obama listed him among a group of political prisoners from repressive countries such as China and Egypt who “deserve to be free.” López, who has done interviews shirtless, came to embody freedom and democracy for audiences across the globe, with stars from Kevin Spacey to Cher rallying to his cause, while the hashtag #freeleopoldo rocketed across Twitter.

But in Venezuela the picture is far more complicated. López has been in jail since February 2014 on charges of arson, public incitement, and conspiracy related to the first big anti-government protest that year, on Feb. 12, 2014, which left three protesters dead and kicked off weeks of rallies, street blockades, vandalism, and violence. The charges against him, which Amnesty International has called “politically motivated,” could carry a prison sentence of 10 years. Outside the courtroom, the public debate continues to swirl between those who believe López is a freedom fighter facing trumped-up charges and those who believe he is the violent “fascista” the government of President Nicolás Maduro claims.

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Wikileaks Revelations Expose US Tentacles: Interview with Michael Ratner

Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and U.S. attorney for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. In this interview he breaks down the latest Wikileaks revelations. (The Real News)