Thursday, November 25, 2021

Aquatic gold rush in Amazon (Nov. 25, 2021)

News Briefs

  • Environmentalists are demanding urgent action to halt an aquatic gold rush along one of the Amazon River’s largest tributaries, reports the Guardian. Hundreds of illegal goldmining dredges have converged on the Madeira river after rumours earlier this month that a large gold deposit had been found in the vicinity. Footage of the brazen illegal operation has provoked outrage, and shows the expansion of illegal extraction in Brazil. 

  • Brazil has lost nearly 16% of its surface water in the past 30 years - and scientists warn rising rates of deforestation will further affect power generation and food production. Climate change is already cutting into the volume and variety of crops Brazil's farmers can grow, and has affected the double-cropping system the country relies on to maintain its status as a major soy and corn exporter, reports Reuters.

  • Two giant U.S. commodity traders bought soybeans in Brazil from farmers trying to evict a traditional community from South America's largest savanna, where deforestation is hastening global warming, according to Global Witness. (Reuters)

  • Eight bodies were found in a mangrove swamp near Rio de Janeiro on Monday, with signs of torture. (See yesterday's briefs.) The apparent massacre occurred during a Military Police special forces operation Sunday, likely in retaliation for the death of a policeman on a patrol the day before. Public security specialists in Brazil have noted the revenge factor for years, reports Folha de S. Paulo. One study found that when a police officer is killed on the job, the chances of a civilian being killed by police on the same day by 1,150 percent. The odds increase 350 percent on the next day, and a 125 percent in the following week.
El Salvador
  • Apple alerted over two-dozen reporters, activists, and political opposition leaders in El Salvador this week of potential government surveillance of their iPhones. The U.S. tech giant sent warnings to 14 El Faro staff members warning that “state-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone.”

  • That same day, Apple sued private Israeli spyware contractor NSO Group for helping governments conduct illegal espionage. In recent years, independent investigations found evidence that the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, among others, are NSO clients. (El Faro)
  • The Venezuelan government's sweep in Sunday's regional elections leaves the country's fragmented opposition with difficult choices moving forward, reports the Financial Times. Juan Guaidó's mandate as National Assembly head ends in January, and most countries will no longer view him as Venezuela's interim president. And negotiations in Mexico between Maduro's government and some opposition representatives have stalled after the U.S. obtained the extradition of a Colombian businessman accused of collaborating with Maduro to steal public funds.
  • Record numbers of Venezuelan migrants have been crossing into the United States in recent months, posing a new border challenge for the U.S. Biden administration, reports the Washington Post. The new migration pattern is different from previous waves of Venezuelan arrivals because it is occurring along the U.S. southern border and includes a large share of migrants who left their country years ago.

  • Mexican authorities say a group of hundreds of mainly Haitian and Central American migrants who had started walking north earlier this month have agreed to be separated and taken by bus to several cities to apply for humanitarian visas. The caravan set out from Tapachula, where many say they can't find work while enduring long delays in granting visas, reports the Associated Press.

  • Mexican officials say an agreement with the U.S. to restart Remain in Mexico likely won't be reached this week, despite earlier reports that the program officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) could restart as soon as next week. Mexico is insisting Washington provide more support against COVID-19 for migrants, such as vaccinations, more legal aid for asylum seekers, and acceleration of hearings for those taking part in the returns program, reports Reuters.
  • Since the 2009 coup, Honduran elections have been marred by allegations of fraud and political violence, notes El Faro, ahead of Sunday's presidential vote. More than 70 percent of Hondurans surveyed in a CESPAD poll said they believed there will be some level of fraud in these elections. (See Tuesday's post and yesterday's.)
  • Three women who have spent years investigating the cases of Mexico's approximately 93,000 “disappeared” found out that they themselves had been placed under investigation by prosecutors. This week journalist Marcela Turati, lawyer Ana Lorena Delgadillo, and Mercedes Doretti, the co-founder of a forensic investigation team, said the investigation against them posed a threat to the rights of victims to be represented and to find out the truth, reports the Associated Press.

  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador nominated Deputy Finance Minister Victoria Rodríguez as the next governor of the Bank of Mexico. The move sparked a sharp depreciation of the peso. Investors and analysts expressed concerns about whether she was sufficiently qualified for the post, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Many Latin American economies bounced back strongly this year. Still, 2022 is likely to provide a reality check, Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said in this week's AQ Podcast. "The outcome will have consequences for elections in Brazil and Colombia, as well as social stability everywhere."

  • The coronavirus pandemic has made women feel more vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment and violence, which is in turn harming their mental health and emotional well-being, according to a new report by U.N. Women. Countries surveyed included Colombia and Paraguay. (New York Times)
Happy Thanksgiving!

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