Archive for the ‘Disability Rights & Issues’ Category

Around Latin America

December 8, 2012 Comments off

-In a move that could have implications for equal marriage rights throughout the country, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that a state law in Oaxaca that banned gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Gunmen assassinated Paraguayan peasant leader Vidal Vega, who fought for the rights for Paraguay’s landless and whose land occupations marked a key moment in the eventual coup that removed Fernando Lugo, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is calling for an investigation into the murder.

-Speaking of Lugo, he has announced his plans to run for Senate in April of next year in a move that could make for some uncomfortable moments should he win and take seat with those who removed him from the presidency.

-In a case that is prompting international outrage, human rights groups have found severe abuse of women and children at one of the larger psychiatric hospitals in Guatemala, where newly-admitted minors were kept in isolation and where patients had died from preventable illnesses.

-In the ongoing struggle for indigenous rights among Chile’s largest indigenous peoples, a Mapuche community is protesting the creation of a new airport that some say will encroach upon indigenous lands in the southern part of the country.

-Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Brazilian indigenous peoples from 70 groups are also protesting the invasion of their lands by loggers, ranchers, and others. At the same time, hundreds of people, including native peoples, students, and artists, marched in protest of the planned privatization of Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium, the largest stadium in the country and the host of the 2014 World Cup final.

-Famous (or infamous, depending on one’s tastes) Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was laid to rest in Rio de Janeiro’s São João Batista cemetery, the resting place of other famed Brazilians, including Carmen Miranda and Tom Jobim.

-In a likely reminder that the wounds of torture victims run deep long after authoritarian regimes fall, Rodolfo Picheni, an Argentine union leader who suffered torture at the hands of the military dictatorship in 1976, committed suicide this week. While the sources of his decision may have been diverse, it’s nonetheless a reminder of the ways the basic violation of human rights can impact one’s life in the long term.

-Colombia has withdrawn from the International Court of Justice after the court ended a decades-long dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua by granting Colombia possession of  a series of small-but-contested islands but extending Nicaragua’s maritime borders further into what could be oil- and gas-rich waters.

Around Latin America

September 3, 2012 Comments off

-In yet another step towards equality, a gay man in Brazil who, with his partner, is adopting a child, has been granted “maternity” leave for four months (rather than the 5-day time off for “paternity” leave) to help raise the couple’s new child.

-In a possible case of “tit-for-tat,” the US has granted asylum to an Ecuadoran journalist seeking protection from a fine and jail sentence after he called President Rafael Correa a “dictator.” The US’s decision to grant asylum came only 24 hours after Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks released classified information from the United States (among other countries).

-Brazil’s striking federal workers reached an agreement with Brazil’s government last week and return to work today. The end of the strike has to be seen as a victory for the federal government generally and President Dilma Rousseff in particular, however, as the workers return to work not with the 25%-50% raises they’d sought, but the 15.8% raise Rousseff offered.

-In the wake of charges of police brutality after Chilean police stripped several protesting youth, President Sebastián Piñera has said his government will crack down on future incidents of “brutality.” However, given the ongoing use of tear gas and water cannons against students who march peacefully in Chile, it also seems clear that the government’s definition of “brutality” differs from that of its detractors and rights activists.

-After an investigation, Venezuela says there is no evidence illegal gold miners from Brazil killed dozens of Yanomani indigenous peoples in Venezuela. Brazil had asked Venezuela to investigate reports of an indigenous massacre involving the two countries. Although the events apparently took place in July, only now reports are surfacing that illegal gold miners in Brazil crossed the border between the two countries and killed nearly 80 Yanomani indigenous peoples in Venezuela.

-Former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is urging Mexicans to take to the streets to protest After Mexico’s Supreme Court rejected PRD presidential candidate López Obrador’s challenge of July’s election results.

-After months of civil unrest, violence, and police clashes with people protesting a mining project, Peru’s government has (at least temporarily) decided against extending a state of emergency in the area of the protests.

-In Nicaragua, three police officers have been fired and are facing possible indictment after they raped a 12-year-old girl with developmental disabilities. As horrible as the crime is, it is also worth remembering that, should the girl become pregnant from her rape, she will not be able to choose to abort, as Daniel Ortega made abortion illegal in Nicaragua in all cases, including rape (which has recently been reduced to a “crime of passion”).

-In a victory for environmental protection, Chile’s Supreme Court has ruled against the construction of a planned $5 billion coal-fueled power plant, ruling the pollution from the plant violates Chile’s constitutional protection of the environment.

Around Latin America

-Amnesty International has issued a report criticizing Colombia for failing to investigate human rights violations and allowing an atmosphere of impunity to persist, including failure to investigate and prosecute right-wing paramilitary groups and individuals who historically have been tied to Colombian governments. However, in at least one isolated instance of progress, a Colombian court sentenced six soldiers to serve 30-50 years in prison for murdering a developmentally disabled man and then falsely reporting his death as a guerrilla combatant.

-As many had hoped she would, Dilma Rousseff has used her line-item veto power to reject 12 clauses and amend 32 others in a highly controversial rainforest bill that had the support of powerful landowners and the business elite but the opposition of the Brazilian Academy of Science, the Catholic Church, and environmental groups (and which saw several Facebook campaigns to promote awareness of and speak out against the law).

-In Argentina, authorities have identified the body of Roque Orlando Montenegro, one of the tens of thousands of “disappeared” in Argentina whose remains washed up in Uruguay in 1976 but were never identified. Both Montenegro and his wife were “disappeared” in the months leading up to and during the Argentine military dictatorship, and their daughter, Victoria, became one of the many cases of children who were adopted and falsely raised by military officials and their supporters as if they were their own children after the infants’ biological parents were arrested, murdered, and “disappeared.”

-Following their protest against PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, thousands of Mexican university students again took to the streets this week to protest against what they argue is the media’s clear bias in favor of Peña Nieto.

-Further south, Hondurans also took to the streets yesterday to protest the increasing violence against and  murder of journalists in Honduras specifically and in the region more generally.

-While three Uruguayan ex-presidents came out to declare that Mercosur has “failed,” their words should be taken with more than a slight grain of salt, as the three men represent parties not included in the current leftist ruling coalition of President José Mujica.

-Five hours after going on strike, São Paulo’s subway workers returned to work after agreeing to a 6% increase in wages and increases in their meal and household foodstuffs vouchers (among other things, Brazilian labor laws require many employers to provide workers with payment for their meals while on the job).

-All of that talk that Argentina’s nationalization of oil producer YPF would lead to European countries reducing trade with Argentina clearly does not apply to one product, at least: the United Kingdom’s importation of wine from Argentina jumped 15%, making the UK the third-largest consumer of Argentine wine (just behind the US and Canada and ahead of Brazil).

-Speaking of alcohol, a new report says that Latin America consumes “considerably less” alcohol than the United States or Europe, though regional metrics vary widely, with El Salvador at the bottom end with only 30% of its population having consumed alcohol in the past year, while 83% of Venezuelans had consumed alcohol in the same time period. Given the deliciousness of Brazilian cachaça, Peruvian chicha, Chilean pisco, and Argentine wine, I can’t help but admire and question (in equal parts) the 15% of the population that are teetotalers.

-Finally, for all of the criticism that NBA owners received for their business practices prior to last year’s lockout, it appears they may not be the worst offenders in the hemisphere; in Brazil, the twenty football (soccer) teams in the first division have a collective debt of $1.85 billion dollars, with four of the top five indebted teams from Rio de Janeiro (sadly, my Botafogo is in the first slot).

Around Latin America

May 12, 2012 Comments off

-Peru’s Minister of Defense and Minister of the Interior have resigned in the wake of clashes with Shining Path rebels that left several soldiers dead.

-Some supporters of Hugo Chávez are furious over a Venezuelan crossword puzzle that they say contains threats against Chávez’s brother.

-Argentina’s Senate was busy this past week. On Wednesday, it passed a “dignified death” law that allows those who are terminally ill to have more control over the way their lives end. In that same session, the Congress also passed a gender identity equality law that recognizes transgender rights, making Argentina the “new world standard” in gender legal rights.

-Meanwhile, in Chile, after languishing in Congress for seven years, politicians finally passed a law prohibiting discrimination and hate-crimes, spurred in part by the tragic death of Daniel Zamudio in a brutal homophobic attack earlier this year.

-Six UN peacekeepers from Uruguay are facing charges of sexual assault of a nineteen-year-old man in Haiti last September, and this week, the victim testified in Uruguay, where the trial is being held.

-While Spain was at the forefront of efforts that ultimately led to the indictment, conviction, and house arrest of Augusto Pinochet and in trying human rights violators from the Argentine military regime of 1976-1983, it is facing criticism for failing to address justice issues for victims of the dictatorship of Generalíssimo Francisco Franco.

-Peruvian indigenous groups fighting against the oil industry’s environmental degradation of their homelands took their case to Canada this week to raise awareness of Canadian industry’s complicity in the environmental and cultural degradation of indigenous rights and history.

-After being criticized for delays, Brazil has finally appointed the members to its Truth Commission, which the country formally established late last year in order to investigate (but not prosecute) torture and other human rights violations during the military regime of 1964-1985.

-In Chile, renowned Japanese astronomer Koichiro Morita was murdered during a robbery attempt. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or “ALMA” Observatory, in the Atacama desert in northern Chile, will provide humans with glimpses into the deepest parts of the universe in an attempt to better understand the origins and development of the universe and galaxies.

-Finally, a Haitian beer, Prestige, won a Gold Award at the recent World Beer Cup, held in San Diego this year. Prestige won the gold for the “American-Style Cream or Ale category.”

Around Latin America

March 8, 2012 Comments off

-Brazilian truck drivers have gone on strike over restrictions on which roads they can use when, and South America’s largest city is feeling the pinch, as São Paulo has begun to run low on fuel.

-In yet even more incredibly discouraging and depressing environmental news from the region, scientific studies reveal that climate change is drastically damaging the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, the world’s second largest barrier reef system. Rising temperatures are rapidly “bleaching” the reef, leading to its death and pointing to the reef’s future as a marine dessert. As if this wasn’t already depressing enough, Mesoamerican countries like Mexico, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala are failing to address the issue adequately, meaning the reef stands a very real chance that it will simply die out, destroying an important marine ecosystem.

-Chilean leaders have spoken out against homophobic violence after the recent beating that has left a 24-year-old gay man in an induced coma.

-Juan Pablo Schiavi, Argentina’s Transportation Secretary, has stepped down from his post in the wake of the horrific train crash in Buenos Aires that killed more than 50 people and injured more than 700 and led to widespread finger-pointing between government officials, rail-safety experts, and the train company responsible for the line.

Four miners are dead and five are missing after an accident in a Colombian coal mine.

-Brazilian beachgoers have made news for their noble acts in aiding a pod of about 20 dolphins who had stranded themselves on a beach in southeastern Rio de Janeiro state.

-In great news for Bolivia’s disabled community, their struggles for equal rights and treatment may be netting real results and improvements. In the wake of protesters journeying over 1000 miles to bring attention to the need for better treatment and equal rights for the disabled in Bolivia, Evo Morales has said he will support a bill that would provide equal rights for the disabled.

-Chilean airline company LAN became the first airline to conduct a commercial flight that was powered by biofuels (in this case, refined vegetable oil).

-Argentine veterans have spoken out in favor of identifying the remains of 123 casualties of the 1982 Malvinas/Falklands war whose identities remain unknown.

-The former head of Haiti’s Central Bank during the 2001-2004 government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide was murdered this week, shortly after his son cut a deal to speak with US Department of Justice officials in Miami regarding charges of bribery between Haitian officials and companies based in Miami.

-Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes went on television earlier this week and tried to explain away El Salvador’s rising murder rate by saying that 90% of the murders were of criminals, and not innocent civilians. Suffice to say, such claims have raised pointed questions and criticisms of the president, and deservedly so.

-On the heels of the FARC promising to end kidnappings last week, another rebel group tied to the FARC, the Ejército de  Liberación Nacional (ELN) has said it would be willing to end attacks against the oil industry if the government reduces the areas where oil exploration can take place and issues a “social tax” on oil production.

-Finally, for those of you who felt there was not enough thrash metal from Brazilian women (or for those of you who felt there were not enough Brazilian women in thrash metal), your prayers have been answered, as Nervosa (“Nervous”), Brazil’s first all-woman thrash metal trio, has hit the scene.

Around Latin America

March 5, 2012 Comments off

-Haitians left disabled after the January 2010 earthquake found some degree of relief in a model community for people left homeless and injured from the quake. Unfortunately, the government is set to reclaim the land, forcing the disabled to fend for themselves and adding to the political and social obstacles and stigmas the physically disadvantaged already face in the country.

-In more depressing environmental news, researchers have issued a new report that suggests that upwards of 900 tropical bird species will be extinct by 2100 due to environmental transformations resulting from climate change.

-Just a few weeks after capturing Shining Path leader Comrade Artemio, Peruvian police have captured another major leader of the movement, arresting Walter Diaz Vega, who was trying to reorganize the guerrilla movement in the wake of Artemio’s arrest.

-Rights activists have long feared that the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay would lead to trials that heavily favored the prosecution and led to unjust sentencing procedures. Yet a recent series of trials on the US military base in Cuba has surprised many, as several people convicted received sentences lighter than those in civilian courts (although the issue of indefinite detention pre-trial is one that continues to plague Guantanamo Bay more than ten years after it “opened”).

-A new report says that 49 human rights activists were killed in Colombia last year, reminding us yet again of the degree to which people defending human rights in the Andean country face threats on a daily basis.

-Prince Harry will be visiting Brazil this weekend, and some Argentines are planning on greeting him with protests over Argentina’s and England’s ongoing verbal and diplomatic struggle over the Malvinas/Falklands islands issue.

-Also in Rio, police arrested a major drug leader, Everton Mesquita, in a favela in the northern part of the city this weekend.

-Lillie points us to this article (in Spanish) and has some brief-but-valuable comments (in English) on the risk of elderly human rights violators trying to “game the system” and use their age to avoid punishment.

Around Latin America

March 2, 2012 1 comment

-Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said in an AP interview that she will seek to completely sever Jamaica’s ties with Queen Elisabeth, who remains the titular head-of-state for the Caribbean nation. Simpson Miller has her hopes that Jamaica can have a national president replace England’s monarch, whose ongoing (ceremonial) status as Jamaica’s ruler hearkens back to an anachronistic era of colonialism.

Disabled protesters in Bolivia clashed with police last week as they ended their 1000-mile protest journey through the country. The protest is fighting for greater rights for and recognition of those with disabilities in the country.

-Abigail Poe has this excellent post up on foreign aid requests from Latin America for 2013. Among other things, the post shows how military aid has changed over time, the percentage of US military aid vs. US social aid, and other data. As is standard for them over at Just the Facts, it is an accessible and informative post that is highly worth checking out for anybody interested in social spending in the region, US foreign aid, US involvement in the region, changes in policies and funding through the years, spending and security issues in the region, and many other topics.

-On Leap Day, Haitians took to the streets to commemorate and protest the February 29, 2004 ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which took place with support from the Bush administration, and an Airstide supporter said there will be more marches in the month of March.

-Apparently, Guatemalans have created a program that allows people to recycle bicycles into machines that improve and make daily life easier for rural areas. The program, Maya Pedal, is currently working with several communities on the project, and you can donate at their website. (h/t Mike)

-The owners of an abandoned high-rise are currently in the courts trying to expel 350 families who have occupied the building for years.

-Two men, including Hector Martinez, a  former-senator in Puerto Rico, were sentenced to four years in prison for bribery and other charges.

-While it won several Academy Awards, apparently the silent film The Artist was not such a smash in Brazil.

-Mike has this excellent article on “El Salvador’s brutal civil war: What we still don’t know,” which summarizes and draws from a seminar on El Salvador’s Civil War that brought together scholars from throughout the world to El Salvador “to assess the state of our knowledge of that country’s civil war, 20 years after peace accords were signed that ended the conflict.”

-Finally, Boz has begun a new blog, Western Hemisphere Futures, that focuses on possible future paths for Latin American countries, including this first tantalizing post on the possibilities and conditions for city-states to secede from their countries, a not-insignificant thought exercise, given the ways in which certain regions and cities differ wildly with their home nation-states and governments.


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