Around Latin America

December 23, 2011

-While much of the focus on environmental degradation in Brazil falls (rightfully) on the Amazon, it is not the only part of the country facing real environmental threats. The Brazilian cerrado is the world’s largest savannah and is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, yet it too is being destroyed for monocrop agriculture.

-Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has publicly supported Bolivia’s claims to a port city on the Pacific coast. The issue has been a point of contention between Bolivia and Chile for nearly 130 years, ever since the latter country took coastal territory from Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, leaving Bolivia as one of South America’s only landlocked countries (Paraguay being the other).

-A declassified U.S. State Department memo from 1982 has become the focal point in the ongoing trial of two Argentine dictators in the case of kidnapped children during the “Dirty War” of 1976-1983. The memo, just declassified this week, not only points towards the systematic kidnapping of children of so-called “subversives,” but also to the United States’ willingness to look the other way on human rights abuses among South American allies during the Cold War.

-The Peace Corps has begun pulling volunteers out of Honduras and not allowing new volunteers to go to Guatemala and El Salvador after several volunteers were caught up in (probably random) acts of violence.

-Former Guatemalan general and leader Efraín Ríos Montt, who in the 1980s oversaw some of the worst human rights violations of the Guatemalan Civil War, may actually finally face charges and trial for genocide, as he loses his congressional seat (and congressional immunity) next month.

-The Mexican city of Veracruz-Boca del Rio was forced to fire its entire police force due to the Zetas cartel’s extensive infiltration into the force.

-More mass graves have been uncovered in Peru, containing upwards of 100 bodies of victims of the civil strife of the 1980s.

-The Caribbean continues to be one of the worst places for LGBT rights in the world, but there are changes in the visibility and activism of the LGBT community in the region, something Colin Robinson discusses here.

-The LGBT community is not the only group deprived of basic rights and opportunities in the Caribbean. Disabled youth also continue to face real challenges and discrimination as well.

-While the rest of the world continues to suffer from economic instability, Brazil continues to buck the trend, as unemployment recently reached a record low of 5.2%, even as migrants from Portugal are increasingly moving to Brazil to find work. Perhaps even more encouraging, university-trained Brazilians who had left the country are now returning, providing a “brain gain” that could have many positive benefits for Brazilian society, development, and education.

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