While many Brazilians are celebrating the opportunity to host the World Cup for the first time in 64 years next year, the renovations have had a devastating impact, as the story of Elisângela reminds us .
Elisângela wasn’t home when authorities arrived without warning to tear down her house on Pavão-Pavãozinho hill in Rio de Janeiro.
Her 17-year-old daughter answered the door and was told that the property was going to be destroyed at that very moment. Panicking, the girl called her mother [...]
Elisângela ran back home, tried to reason with the men, ask for some time to find another home, but it was no use. In a few hours, all that was left was debris. This happened in early 2011. To this day, Elisângela has not been compensated nor relocated. Her daughter had to go live with her grandmother, while Elisângela still searches for a new home.
And while government officials insist that actually improving the favelas surrounding World Cup sites is too expensive and that it’s better to just tear down their homes and force them to relocate, actual experts have a somewhat different perspective:
[A]ccording to the Rio People’s World Cup and Olympics Committee, engineers that have written technical reports about areas like the Pavão-Pavãozinho have pointed out that doing construction work to restrain or strengthen the slope, in order to eliminate the risk of slippage, would cost even less than relocating the families that live in the area.
It shouldn’t be surprising that government officials and others are willing to disregard the basic needs of the city’s urban poor, though, forcing them to relocate in the name of “development” and “improvement.” That has been the case since the early-1900s, when favelas developed on the city’s mountainsides as elites forced the urban poor out of downtown areas in order to make the cityscape look more European, a process that continues as once-devalued lands suddenly gain importance to the wealthy without any consideration of the socioeconomically marginalized who lived in those areas. Though this particular story took place last year, it’s just one case of hundreds (if not thousands) of people, including indigenous peoples, being evicted from their homes in the name of an international sporting event. It’s another sad reminder that the socioeconomic marginalization of Brazil’s urban poor is not something that’s just a part of its urban past, but a process that continues unchecked into the 21st century.
-Brazil and Russia reached an agreement on arms and technology exchanges between the two countries while also discussing nuclear power. Talks between Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and President Dilma Rousseff led to the sale of surface-to-air missiles to Brazil as well as the possibility of Russia aiding Brazil in building more nuclear power plants. Currently, Brazil, whose rapid growth has put a strain on energy supplies, has only one nuclear power plant (with two functioning reactors) at Angra dos Reis in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
-Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that prohibits gay couples from adopting children. The judges ruled 5-4 that only mother-father relationships were appropriate for children, marking a significant setback in equal rights on the island.
-Nearly 30 years after battles between the Shining Path and government forces, Peru’s government returned the bodies of 26 people killed during the fights to their families, who were finally able to bury their loved ones.
-While it’s difficult to imagine extreme poverty being eradicated, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says that Brazil is very close to doing just that after raising the monthly stipend for 2.5 million Brazilians living below the poverty line.
-With Colombia near the top of the list in terms of deaths and injuries caused by mines, volunteer groups made up of civilians have begun training and working on removing mines.
-In an effort to reduce both deforestation and crime that is often connected to illegal logging, an international operation has led to Interpol arresting over 200 people for illegal timber trafficking and logging in South America.
-A new intelligence law in Honduras designed to create new security apparatuses has some concerned, as its combination of military defense and police forces is reminiscent of Cold War policies that fostered the disappearance of Hondurans in the 1980s.
-While Chile’s support for England over Argentina during the Malvinas War has long been known, recently-declassified documents have further shed light on the diplomatic ties and subjects discussed between the Chilean and English governments diplomatic ties operated prior to the beginning of the War.
-Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez took advantage of new passport regulations to leave her home country. Her first stop? Brazil, where she addressed Congress yesterday, though her journey has also witnessed some opposition from supporters of Cuba.
-Finally, FIFA appears ready to finally use technology to improve futebol/soccer, as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will employ goal line technology to confirm goals. The issue came to the forefront when Englishman Frank Lampard clearly scored a goal that did not count in a match against Germany (though Germany went on to win the game 4-1, Lampard’s goal would have made it 2-2).
-While Hugo Chávez’s health is increasingly in question as he underwent surgery for cancer yet again, his political vision appears to remain alive. In gubernatorial elections yesterday in Venezuela, his political coalition won 20 of the 23 elections for state offices. Henrique Capriles, who lost the presidential election to Chávez in October, was also re-elected governor of the state of Miranda.
-Human rights appear to have taken a step backwards in Colombia, where Congress passed a bill that allows military members who commit crimes to face trial in military courts rather than in civil courts. The move further strengthens the potential for impunity for Colombia’s military, already closely tied to numerous human rights violations, and represents a significant step backwards in the quest for preventing human rights violations in Colombia.
-In a case of an unbalanced counter-offer, Chevron countered two civil lawsuits for $20 billion for its role in oil spills in Brazil by offering to instead pay $150 million to resolve the suits.
-In a step towards equal marriage rights, Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow gay marriage and would permit couples to decide whose surname goes to their children in what order (thus helping equalize what has culturally been a patriarchal practice). The bill next heads to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass.
-On the other end of the spectrum of equal rights, two teenagers in Brazil were arrested in the murder of a gay college student. One of the two teens confessed to killing Lawrence Corrêa Biancão out of homophobia in what appears to have been a calculated and cold-blooded murder that, in its homophobic extremity, is not so dissimilar from the murder of Chilean Daniel Zamudio earlier this year.
-Honduras is in the midst of a brewing institutional crisis as Congress and the Supreme Court are locked in a battle over power and legislation even as President Porfirio Lobo bandies about allegations of a planned coup against him.
-Brazilian rapper Mano Brown has begun pushing for the impeachment of São Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin (who unsuccessfully ran for president of Brazil in 2006) for allowing police to allegedly target Afro-Brazilian youths in South America’s largest city.
-Speaking of police violence in Brazil, police were caught assautling a journalist covering a protest in one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.
-Authorities in Paraguay have charged 14 farmers for killing 17 people in land disputes that ultimately led to the removal of President Fernando Lugo from office in June. The charges come even as the causes and events of the actual showdown remain unclear.
-While the image of indigenous peoples as inherently better stewards of the environment is a highly-charged and problematic image, that does not take away from the fact that indigenous groups have become important actors in environmental conservation in the 21st century, as Peru’s Achuar people remind us.
-Finally, it was an excellent weekend for Brazilian sports, as Brazil officially opened the first finished stadium a year and a half in advance of hosting the 2014 World Cup, even while São Paulo’s Corintians football team defeated Chelsea 1-0 to become the first Brazilian club to win the World Club Cup since Internacional did it in 2006.
Brazil will take the appropriate measures to make sure the 2014 World Cup goes off without a hitch, and as with the 2007 Pan-American games, things will be ready on time. Any and all bluster from FIFA and European countries that Brazil won’t be prepared are just that – bluster.
-The Sixth Summit of the Americas ended yesterday with the United States (with support from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and the remaining 31 countries in attendance remaining divided over the issue of including Cuba in the Summit. While the rest of Latin America has at least some degree of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the United States continues its anachronistic policy of total isolation of the island country. While at the Summit, President Obama also spoke out against legalizing drugs to combat drug violence, even while other countries proclaimed the need to end the “War on Drugs.”
-Argentine Jorge Videla, an ex-leader of the military junta that took power in 1976, has admitted that the dictatorship he headed for awhile killed at least 7,000-8,000 people, even while he continued to excuse and defend the regime’s actions as “the price to win the war against subversion.” Meanwhile, Peruvian ex-officer Telmo Hurtado admitted he participated in the 1985 Accomarca massacre that left dozens murdered at the hands of the Peruvian military.
-Colombian José Antonio Ocampo has withdrawn his name from candidacy to serve as president of the World Bank. Ocampo’s departure leaves the US’s nominee, Jim Young Kim, and Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the remaining candidates, though Okonjo-Iweala is a long shot given that a US citizen has always been the World Bank’s president and the US has the most votes in the process.
-Speaking of economics and Colombia, does recent economic stability and growth point to a “miracle”?
-A British company has admitted to illegally sending waste exports to Brazil and dumping contaminated waste on the country’s shoreline in 2009.
-Three Brazilians have been charged with murder and cannibalism after killing at least two women and “using their remains to make stuffed meat pies sold in the northeastern town on Garanhuns,” meat pies which it seems at least some of the residents ate, including hospital patients and/or schoolchildren.
-Peruvian forces freed thirty-six contract workers who the Shining Path guerrilla movement had kidnapped and held hostage last week.
-Finally, between a video accusing FIFA head Sepp Blatter of human rights violations and Brazil’s Senate refusing to consider controversial bills regarding the 2014 World Cup without Blatter in attendance, it seems safe to say it has been a moderately rough week for Blatter (though he’s certainly had worse weeks in the past, thanks to his own insensitive and sexist remarks).
-Brazilian workers building a stadium in the city of Fortaleza voted to continue a strike in an attempt to get better pay and working conditions. While construction company owners say the strike will delay construction, the stadium in the northern state of Ceará is one of the stadiums closest to completion for the 2014 World Cup.
-Peruvian immigrants to Chile have gone to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protest the mass expulsions of immigrants, which have increased since late-2011.
-Bolivia has canceled a contract with Brazilian company Odebrecht to construct a road through the Bolivian Amazonian rainforest in the eastern part of the country. Over the past year, the road had been a point of contention between President Evo Morales, who favored the project, and indigenous groups who helped Morales get elected and who opposed the project passing through their lands. Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian government has expressed displeasure over the cancellation, which comes in the wake of the United States’ decision earlier this year to cancel a 355 million dollar contract to buy Super Tucano planes from Brazil.
-Is Brazil facing a potential obesity problem?
-Peru successfully rescued nine miners who for were trapped for nearly a week in an extra-legal informal mine.
-After two months, Somali pirates have released a ship flying under Panama’s flag after negotiations led an alleged payment of a $250,000 ransom.
-In Argentina, a baby that was declared dead is recovering after being left in a coffin in a morgue for nearly twelve hours.
-Could the 2014 World Cup be a repeat of 1950′s World Cup? It seems a possibility, with FIFA recently ranking Uruguay the third best national team in the world. The FIFA rankings are often a bit problematic, and the World Cup is still two years off. Still, there is no denying that Uruguay, who defeated Brazil 2-1 in Maracanã stadium in one of the highest-attended football games ever the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup, is looking very strong at this point, and this could be their chance to move ahead of Argentina and join Germany as a three-time champion (only Italy, with four, and Brazil, with five, have more world cup victories).
-Mexico’s Partido Acción Nacional has nominated Josefina Vazquez Mota to be its candidate against the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto, making Vazquez Mota the first woman presidential candidate for a major party in Mexican history. However, she is not the first woman candidate in Mexico’s history; that distinction belongs to Rosário Ybarra, who in 1982 ran as president for the Partido Revolucionário de los Trabajadores (Revolutionary Workers’ Party), ultimately garnering nearly 2% of the vote.
-Brazil has become the first country to take advantage of Twitter’s new censorship rules, filing an injunction that would allow the country to block accounts and tweets that alert drivers to sobriety checkpoints, speedtraps, and other roadblocks.
-Adam has compiled this remarkable collection of maps that outline suspected air and maritime paths for drug trafficking from South America into Mexico and the Caribbean between 2005 and 2011. Collectively, the maps show how transit routes in the drug trade have changed over time, responding to ongoing efforts from the U.S. and Latin American countries to combat the drug trade.
-Also in drug war news, Mexico’s army chief admitted the military has committed murders and torture in the fight against drug gangs, but insisted that those responsible have been punished for “mistakes.”
-Brazil’s Minister of Cities, Mário Negroponte, resigned this week, becoming the seventh minister to step down amid allegations of corruption. While the number of resignations have ironically made president Dilma Rousseff’s administration look stronger with the appearance that it no longer tolerates corruption in the executive branch, as Boz points out, if this problem continues into 2013, it could have a more damaging impact on Brazil both nationally and internationally as it prepares for the 2014 World Cup.
-In Panama, indigenous peoples’ efforts to protest proposed mining and hydroelectric dams in Panama succeeded, as legislators withdrew a bill that would have allowed construction on indigenous lands. The week before, Panama’s indigenous peoples blocked parts of the Pan-American highway to protest the bill and publicize the threat they faced.
-Meanwhile, anti-mining protests continue in Peru, with protesters moving from Cajamarca to Lima to protest the environmental degradation and contaminated water that is a result of mining near their communities.
-Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, a Brazilian journalist who accused local authorities in the state of Rio de Janeiro of corruption, was found murdered this week, alongside his girlfriend. The bodies of the two were found 22 hours after they had been kidnapped, in a case that immediately suggests possible revenge for his charges of corruption among police and court officials. This was not the first attempt on Marques Lopes’s life; a man burst into his office and shot him in the head last year, but Marques Lopes survived and continued his work.
-A Haitian judge has ruled that Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier can stand trial for corruption, but in a setback for human rights, the judge has also ruled that Baby Doc should not face charges of human rights violations for abuses committed during his dictatorship of 1971-1986.
-Colombian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Luis Carlos Restrepo, one of the top officials of former president Álvaro Uribe. Restrepo is wanted for his role in organizing the arrest of “guerrilla leftists” in a highly-publicized 2006 event that was apparently a charade designed to make the Uribe administration government look successful against leftists in the country.
-Last month, the story of Haitians seeking asylum in Brazil made international news. While many Haitians have been admitted, not all are finding the immediate opportunities they’d hoped for, as some 300 Haitians remain in the Peruvian Amazon, awaiting entry into Brazil.
-Mike points us to this excellent introduction to a four-part series on mining in Guatemala, a must-watch for anybody interested in labor or environmental impacts of mining on both people and landscapes in Central America today.
-Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has been disbarred for eleven years for “abuse of power.” Garzón is well-known in the human rights community for his role in issuing the arrest warrant for Augusto Pinochet, a move that reignited ultimately-successful efforts to prosecute the Chilean ex-dictator, as well as for investigations into the Basque separatist movement and the Franco regime in a legal process for which he is also currently being investigated.
-In another sign of a strong economy in Brazil, Jaguar Land Rover has agreed to open a factory there, providing more jobs for Brazilians as well as attempting to enter into the South American car market.
-In another example of the simple fact that outlawing abortion does not make it go away and increases the threats to women, a recent study has found that 95% of all abortions in Latin America are “unsafe” in a region where most countries have outlawed abortion in most (if not all) cases.
-When you are responsible for the torture, murder, and even dismemberment of thousands of your citizens the way Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is, I don’t think a “scolding” over violating house arrest is really going to leave much an impression.
-The right-wing government of Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has backed down from its attempts to require news media to surrender photographs and images to police forces without a court order, a move that would have extremely restricted freedom of speech and access to information while effectively turning journalists into agents of the various arms of the state security apparatus.
-A second Cuban prisoner has died after a hunger strike that lasted 50 days. Thirty-one year old Wilmar Villar had gone on strike to protest his four-year prison sentence for participating in a demonstration. Villar joins Rene Cobas, who died earlier this month while on a hunger strike protesting his exclusion from a list of 3000 prisoners who received pardon.
-In the face of a Brazilian law that bans the sale of alcoholic drinks in stadiums, FIFA has insisted that beer be sold at all venues hosting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a move that would gain the support of millions of fans but has met the opposition of some Brazilian politicians and health officials. While FIFA’s position is understandable, waves of football violence both in Brazil and the international arena also provide strong arguments against the sales of alcohol in stadiums in what will already be a tense environment.
-In yet another of the ever-growing (and already-significant) evidence of the impact of human behavior on climate change and ecosystems, a new report links carbon dioxide emissions on the brain and nervous system of fish, which could significant impact the ability of fish to survive at a time where the production of fish as food is already having very real negative environmental impacts.
-In Peru, the executive secretary of the Peruvian National Human Rights Coordinator has called on the government to include memory issues in the classrooms, including the Shining Path movement and its impacts/legacies.
-80 peasant families in Uruguay have overtaken a farm in the northern part of the country in an attempt to combat social inequalities in Uruguay and to make more public the plight facing many in the country, employing tactics similar to those employed by the MST (Movimento Sem Terra) in Brazil.
-A contestant on Big Brother Brasil is being investigated for rape after footage from the program showed him crawling into bed with a female contestant who had passed out, though the woman insists nothing had happened and has not pressed charges.
-A TV clown with a children’s program on Mexican television has apologized after joking about a fire that killed more nearly 50 children in 2009. Sergio Verduzco, who plays Platanito the Clown, had commented, ““Do you know why Michael Jackson died? Out of desperation because they torched a nursery up in Sonora…Besides, now there is no nursery. They opened a joint called ‘Kentucky Fried Children’” regarding the day-care fire that ultimately claimed the lives of 49 children.
-Ecuador has destroyed 11 World War II era bombs in the Galapagos Islands. Fishermen in the region found the bombs, which had been left over from a training base in the area, in 2010.
As I mentioned yesterday, a recent New York Times article traced the rise of Haitian immigration to Brazil as Haitians try to find a new and better start in South America’s booming economy.
Of course, this is not the first time that Brazil has been closely tied to Haiti. In February of 2004, a small rebel movement rose up against president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and by the end of the month, the Haitian president had been forced into exile. As the year progressed, Haiti was torn apart by increasing violence between rival factions. The U.S. attempted to “restore order” by sending around 1000 Marines, but they, along with the Haitian National Police forces, faced allegations of the use of excessive force to murder Haitian civilians, allegedly at the behest of the United States and other allies in the UN. In this context, in June the United Nations established the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) after voting to send troops in to stabilize the country in the wake of political turmoil, and Brazil took charge of the peace-keeping mission, ultimately making up a majority of the more than 12,000 troops stationed in Haiti between 2004 and the present. Brazil’s willingness to take the lead in the UN involvement in Haiti was a small step in its efforts to increase its global presence and importance under the Lula administration (2002-2010). However, the decision also means Brazil itself is now facing the question of how to conduct a successful withdrawal of troops from a country that is still trying to establish its political stability.
The fact that Brazil has been so visible in Haiti since 2004, combined with the booming economy, actually makes it a logical endpoint for Haitian immigrants. Indeed, Wesley Saint-Fleur, whose story starts off the New York Times report, confirms the draw of the economy itself:
“Then we finally got to Brazil, which I’m told is building everything, stadiums, dams, roads,” said Mr. Saint-Fleur, 27, a construction worker, one of hundreds of Haitians who gather each day around the gazebo in Brasiléia’s palm-fringed plaza. “All I want is work, and Brazil, thank God, has jobs for us.”
The inclusion of stadiums is important, as it’s not just Brazil’s economy that’s a draw; clearly, the construction and preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics have made the country a draw for others from throughout Latin America who are looking for basic work and a steady income. Additionally, Brazil’s economy stands in stark contrast to Haiti’s, which can only further suggest the value of
The other thing that’s fascinating in this is the emergence (perhaps temporary, perhaps more long-term) of Brazil as a pole that attracts workers and migrants from other countries. Central to this attraction is the emerging ideal of Brazil as a new economic haven that provides more equality and a better opportunity than one’s home country. This type of symbolism should not be unfamiliar to those in the United States, as the U.S. historically has provided a similar symbol of an opportunity to improve one’s own life and the lives of one’s progeny, even when that symbolism did not necessarily fully or accurately reflect the opportunities available to immigrants or the ways they would be received upon arrival in the United States, (whether it be the Irish in the 1840s, the Chinese in the 1860s, or Mexicans and Central Americans today). Indeed, many Haitians themselves have looked to the U.S. as a possible escape from poverty and instability in Haiti, and over 25,000 refugees and 7,000 asylum seekers have turned to the U.S. and Canada in recent years, even as the US turns away asylum-seekers. Yet the fact that Haitians are also beginning to see Brazil as a land of opportunity signifies an interesting and subtle-but-important shift not just in the dynamics of immigration in the Western Hemisphere, but also as an important marker of the ways in which
While immigrants’ decisions to turn to Brazil may indicate another way that Brazil is taking on a new global importance in the 21st century, the Brazilian government itself is more ambiguous on the question. The government has already begun to try to slow the influx of migrants, granting visas to those who have already arrived in the country but also stepping up border security. And many Haitians themselves are beginning to find that the symbol of Brazil as a successful and equal country does not always line up with realities in Brazil, as “some [Haitians] crowd eight to a small hotel room or wind up sleeping on the streets, almost reliving the misery they had hoped to leave behind.” Indeed, while Brazil’s economy is witnessing unprecedented success at the macroeconomic level, it continues to struggle with a wide income gap (reflected by the Gini coefficient), where the top 10% of the country hold 42.5% of the country’s income even while the bottom 60% only share about 22% of the national income. It is into this context that Haitians are moving; certainly their hopes are not foolish, but there are real obstacles still facing Brazil, and in many regards, the booming economy has helped the few over the many.
I agree with Gabriel Elizondo, who commented on Twitter, “All the Haitian migrants tell me they want to do is one thing: Work. Simple as that. Brazil is lucky to have them.” Brazil should not turn away the Haitians, but rather find opportunities not only for them, but for the millions of Brazilians who have been shunted aside in the race for “development” and that ultimate of Brazilian positivist goals, “progress.”
-The Order of Brazilian Lawyers (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil) has come out against a statue to general Golbery do Couto e Silva, one of the early architects of the Brazilian military dictatorship of 1964-1985 who served in high-level advisory positions during the administrations of Humberto Castelo Branco, Ernesto Geisel, and João Figueiredo. The OAB takes particular issue with the fact that the statue of the general in his hometown in southern Brazil was approved just shortly after Brazil announced that it would finally launch its own truth commission into human rights violations during the military regime. In addition to the murder of hundreds and torture of thousands of its own citizens, the Brazilian regime also secretly aided the Pinochet regime, as recently released telegrams have revealed.
-Speaking of military regimes, anthropologists have uncovered a mass grave containing fifteen more bodies of victims of the Argentine military dictatorship. And human rights activists in Argentina gave a judge 130 photographs of victims whom the Argentine regime of 1976-1983 had tortured and tossed from airplanes over the ocean.
-Mexico has apologized to an indigenous woman whom soldiers raped in 2002. Valentina Rosendo had taken her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in an attempt to seek justice for the beating and rape she suffered at the hands of eight soldiers.
-Venezuelan authorities have arrested four Colombian paramilitaries who had crossed over the border between the two countries.
-Brazil suffered its second oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state this past week after a leak at a rig owned by the Japanese company Mitsui Ocean and Development Engineering, and oil has already begun washing up on beaches. This spill comes in the wake of Chevron’s spill last month.
-A court acquitted Colombian general Iván Ramírez of responsibility of the disappearance of a rebel twenty-five years ago.
-Mexico City announced today that it will close down the world’s largest trash dump by the end of the year.
-I second Greg’s sentiment regarding the absurdity of the idea that Latin American militaries somehow became “apolitical” at the end of 20th-century military regimes.
-While Brazil’s economy has slowed down this quarter, the fact remains that foreign investment in the country quadrupled in five years.
-If you ever wondered how to count to 11 in Nahuatl (a major indigenous language in Mexico), Plaza de Sesame [AKA Sesame Street] is here to help.
-As part of its disarmament programs, Brazil is hoping to offer free or reduced-price tickets for the 2014 World Cup to those individuals who turn in weapons.
-Suffice to say, I do not agree with Meryl Streep in any way, shape, or form on this one.