Friday, March 16, 2018

Brasil: Lost Without Hope


Lost Without Hope

The apparent assassination of a liberal Rio de Janeiro politician who was known for her social work in the slums and was critical of police has left her supporters feeling “lost, without hope.”
The killing of Rio city councilor Marielle Franco, 38, was “a very tough blow for anyone who fights for justice, for freedom, for equality,” Camila Pontes a 30-year-old communications officer, toldthe Guardian.
Police officials said two gunmen fired nine shots into the vehicle carrying Franco and her driver Wednesday night.
The attack comes after the military took charge of policing Rio last month in response to a surge in violence. Franco’s killing sparked protests across Brazil, bringing together union members, feminists, leftists and various poor communities.
Franco, a gay black woman, had spoken out against police killings – which killed 154 people in Rio state in January – carried out in the name of a crackdown on gangs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bolivia: The Shoe Is On The Other Foot


The Shoe is on the Other Foot

In what could be the first case of its kind, a US federal court in Fort Lauderdale is hearing allegations of human-rights abuses brought against a former foreign head of state.
Bolivian ex-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada stands accused of ordering the extrajudicial killings of poor, indigenous Bolivians in 2003, when he cracked down on protests against his administration. He then resigned and fled to the United States when he couldn’t bring the protesters to heel. The charges were filed under the US Torture Victim Protection Act, the Miami Herald reported.
Around 3,000 miles away, Evo Morales must have been smiling.
Morales was one of the leaders of the protests that ousted Sánchez de Lozada. Today, he’s president of Bolivia, the first from the country’s indigenous community.
But now Morales is in danger of resembling the strongman he fought against years ago.
Writing in Bloomberg View, journalist Mac Margolis argued that many Bolivians believe Morales is flouting the country’s constitution by seeking a fourth term in office.
In 2016, a referendum to let him run again failed. But Morales argued that limiting his time in office contravened his human rights and the political choices of his supporters. The country’s highest court overturned the referendum. Morales’ approval rating has sunk to 22 percent as a result.
“Bolivians have not always been so worried about democracy and the rule of law,” former La Paz Mayor Ronald MacLean-Abaroa told Margolis. “But ignoring the popular will and insisting upon running again, that really offended people.”
As leftwing leaders in Argentina, Venezuela and elsewhere in South America have lost face, Morales is a survivor, explained Foreign Affairs.
His base of support is strong. He’s made good on promises to bring historically excluded groups into government – including the country’s bowler hat-wearing ‘cholitas’ – and responded to calls by women across the country to acknowledge rampant sexual abuse. He’s also improved the economy, driving Bolivia to even put a satellite into space with China’s help. And his critics are disorganized.
But, as the World Bank noted in a blog post, Bolivia is a poor country facing major problems, including urban congestion stemming from the influx of folks from the countryside into La Paz and other big cities, a common dilemma among growing developing nations.
Morales knows how to unseat a president. He’ll need to do more to keep others from unseating him.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Colombia: Unpopular Peace


Unpopular Peace

Lauded by the international press, Colombia’s peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, proved damaging to President Juan Manuel Santos’ ruling coalition in congressional elections this weekend – raising questions about the pact’s future and also presidential polls slated for May.
The opposition Democratic Center party led by former President Alvaro Uribe will become the largest bloc in the Senate, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Santos’ Party of National Unity – which previously held that honor – finished fifth in this go-around.
Fighting at the ballot box for the first time, FARC won less than 0.5 percent of the overall vote, so the erstwhile revolutionaries will get only the 10 seats guaranteed them by the peace accord.
The results will put pressure on candidates who supported the peace deal to join forces in the upcoming presidential polls, with the race still “wide open,” the paper said.
The current front-runner is Uribe’s handpicked candidate, Sen. Ivan Duque. But an analyst from the political consultancy Control Risks said it’s too early to predict the victor.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Chile: Frankenstein's Monster


Frankenstein’s Monster

The trade deal originally designed to combat China’s growing dominance has morphed into a bulwark against US President Donald Trump’s drift toward protectionism.
On Thursday, 11 nations including major US allies Japan, Canada and Australia signed a rejigged version of the erstwhile Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Santiago, Chile, in a bid to continue the global push for free trade, the New York Times reported.
The deal was originally designed to counter Beijing. But now China has been invited to join the pact – which drastically slashes tariffs as President Trump establishes stiff duties on steel and aluminum. Notably, the American president pulled the US out of the deal soon after he assumed office.
China has shown signs that it might join now the US is out, and there have also been indications that the US might come back if “we did a substantially better deal,” as Trump phrases it. But the bloc’s impact could increase from a projected $147 billion boost to global income per year to a whopping $449 billion without either one – if Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand sign up.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

El Salvador: A Political Saint


A Political Saint

An archbishop who spoke out against El Salvador’s death squads and was assassinated by a sniper for his words will be named a saint by the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has announced.
Archbishop Óscar Romero was a prominent critic of the brutal tactics of the US-backed Salvadorean army during the country’s 12-year civil war from 1980 to 1992. The church said in a statement that Pope Francis signed decrees on Tuesday approving his canonization, along with that of Pope Paul VI, who oversaw many of the reforms the Catholic Church underwent in the 1960s, the BBC reported.
Romero was gunned down on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated mass in a hospital chapel, just a day after he chastised the country’s National Guard and police, saying, “The law of God which says thou shalt not kill must come before any human order to kill. It is high time you recovered your conscience.”
No one has been prosecuted for his murder, and his beatification was blocked for decades by conservative Cardinals who believed he was killed because of his politics rather than his preaching.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Brasil Tainted Meat Probe Intensifies

Brazil tainted meat probe intensifies - exports to SA stopped

Mar 05 2018 21:00 
Julia Leite, Gerson Freitas jnr and Tatiana Freitas
Sao Paulo - The turmoil at Brazilian poultry giant BRF SA intensified after it became the target of a new phase of the food-safety probe that threw the country’s meat industry into disarray last year.
Emails from BRF employees point to evidence of widespread fraud that reached the company’s top management, federal police said at a press conference on Monday in Curitiba.
The wrongdoing allegedly occurred between 2012 and 2015, police said, and involved three of the company’s plants and executives from all levels - a temporary arrest warrant was issued for Former Chief Executive Officer Pedro Faria, a court filing showed. A company press official contacted by Bloomberg had no comment on the probe.
The news piles pressure on BRF, which is at the centre of a bitter shareholder dispute that could result in the removal of its entire board after the chicken producer reported the worst results in its history.
Over the weekend, pension funds that own a combined 22% of the company’s shares presented their candidates for a new board. BRF chair Abilio Diniz has called a meeting to discuss the request.
According to a police statement, five laboratories accredited with the Agriculture Ministry and an unnamed company falsified results of tests on meat samples. The motive was to hide poor sanitary conditions and incidences of salmonella above requirements set by certain importers, avoiding sales restrictions and punishments, the ministry said in a separate statement.
Exports from the plants targeted in the probe have been halted to some destinations with specific salmonella-control requirements, including South Africa, the ministry said. Others are the European Union, Russia and China. 
Eleven temporary arrest orders, 53 search orders and 27 orders to bring people in for questioning are being carried out in the states of Goias, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo, according to police’s latest statement.
They named the new phase "Trapaca", Portuguese for cheating.
Brazilian police launched their so-called Weak Flesh probe in March 2017, saying they had evidence that 21 meat companies bribed government inspectors to approve sales and exports, even when meat and poultry was contaminated or spoiled.
The case prompted a number of countries to temporarily ban or curb beef and poultry imports from Brazil, the largest exporter of those commodities. The restrictions have since been lifted as some of the accusations were seen as exaggerated and as authorities increased inspections.
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Brasil: An Old Enemy


An Old Enemy

Brazil has been hit with the worst outbreak of yellow fever in decades, with the deadly disease now encircling Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Yellow fever kills 3-8 percent of those who contract it, and the threat to the huge population centers represents the first potential urban epidemic for the country since 1942, the New York Times reported.
So far, there have been 237 deaths since the beginning of the hot season, but the fatality rate could spike if the disease hits the crowded slums – where standing water breeds mosquitoes and residents have little defense.
Yellow fever is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever and other diseases. Brazil is now scrambling to vaccinate some 23 million people against it. But the disease is spreading at a pace of a mile a day in what has become a deadly race.
The vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective, according to the World Health Organization. But public health efforts have been impeded by dangerous rumors about fatal side effects, which in fact affect only one in a million.