Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Latin America Stories, March 24, 2015

Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that the protests in Brazil were evidence of a weakened politics on the left. Now, two academics question the racial and class makeup of recent protestors and argue that Brazil is caught up in a "conservative backlash against redistribution, a growing challenge from the right." The push-back is almost exclusively against the PT as a party, according to Gianpaolo Baiocchi (New York University) and Marcelo Silva (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre), in an Al-Jazeera op-ed (3/22). "The issue that many find most offensive is affirmative action in public universities ... a traditional bastion of elite privilege." Baiocchi and Silva are co-authors of Bootstrapping Democracy Transforming Local Governance and Civil Society in Brazil (Stanford University, 2011). 

It is neither the left or the right causing problems - rather what is developing in Brazil is more like Netflix's House of Cards and Machiavellian power plays, according to Info LATAM (3/22), which cites three decisions Pres. Rousseff made to damage the opposition PMDB leaders which "triggered the current offensive in some points similar to Underwood."

An MDA poll shows almost 60% favor Pres. Rousseff's impeachment, and almost 70% believe she is responsible for the Petrobras corruption, according to Reuters (3/23). Former President Cardoso (PSDB) resisted calls for impeachment "especially since prosecutors have found no evidence she participated in the corruption scheme."

A large part of the blame lies with Brazil itself, suggests the Financial Times (3/22). Chile, Colombia and Peru enjoyed "similar commodity and credit booms but without the same hangovers" and their economies are far away from recessions. The central question now, asks the paper, is whether Brazil’s institutions can hold under pressure. 

  • Guatemala and Honduras have set up the Fuerza de Tarea Binacional Maya-Chortí, a a joint border task force to fight criminal gangs and respond to causes of migration, according to the Associated Press (3/24) as well as the promotion of customs transactions, according to La Prensa (Honduras) and El Periodico (Guatemala) . The group includes about 700 agents from police, military, intelligence, and migration agencies. Honduran military as well as Guatemalan government websites show the militarized aspect of this task force, similar to an program Guatemala has with Mexico. 
  • How did the Cuba-U.S. thaw take place?, is a question answered by seven Reuters reporters (3/23) interviewing "a dozen people with direct knowledge of the process" which revealed a longer, painstakingly cautious quest by Pres. Obama and veteran Cuba specialists, including why the Vatican was included in the strategy.
  • Venezuelan opposition leaders admit that the conflict between U.S. and Venezuela is covering over ("displacing") internal conflicts and serves only the domestic political concerns of Obama and Maduro, according to El Universal (3/23).
  • The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) held five hearings on the rights of LGBT people in the Americas, particularly in Central America, Venezuela, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, but also the overall state of the rights of transgender people in the Americas, according to the Human Rights Campaign.  One of the hearings, "Forced Migration and Persecution of LGBTI Defenders in Central America," included activists addressing how the environment of violence and impunity is forcing LGBT persons to unwillingly migrate and leave their home countries.
  • Nicaraguan/Russian relations are stirring things up in the region, according to McClatchy (3/23). "Some analysts see the dust-up over the jet fighters as part of a global chess game between the United States and Russia." When Russia made its' moves on Crimea last year, "Nicaragua supported the annexation."
  • The 'War on Drugs' in Mexico has been an abject failure, and has "provided the pretext for the militarization of local police forces and increased routine surveillance of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives," according to an essay by in several places including NACLA and In These Times, by Rebecca Gordon (3/24). She writes about the recent high-profile arrests (Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán in Sinaloa and Servando 'La Tuta' Gómez in Michoacán) but says the cartels seem as strong as ever. "They may occasionally split and reassemble, but they are still able to move plenty of product, and reap at least $20 billion a year in sales in the United States." 
  • "Corruption is the cancer of Latin America. We’re having a lot of issues in our country, in Mexico, but I think the important thing is that people have a voice and social media is very important to denounce all those violations, human rights or anything that they see towards the environment." Quote from Mexican pop group MANA in The Huffington Post (3/23).

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