Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Rio's "Integrated City" plan (Jan. 25, 2022)

Rio de Janeiro state governor Claudio Castro announced a new public security project aimed at improving services and safety in the state capital's favelas -- nearly a week after major police operatives occupied Jacarezinho and Muzema, the start of what authorities touted as an effort to wrest back control from the drug gangs and paramilitary mafias in city neighborhoods.

Castro announced the state would spend about $90 million in the coming weeks to address social problems in Jacarezinho and Muzema -- but the move caught everybody, including Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes, by surprise, reports AFP. Among the largest investments are funding for the construction of houses in the Casa da Gente program and lines of microcredit to help community members avoid predatory lenders. (Globo)

On paper the new project, dubbed "Integrated City" aims to improve conditions in the city's favelas, with much needed access to services, housing and mobility. In practice, experts say the program replicates past experiments in community policing without incorporating the lessons that led to their failure. Activists and experts particularly point to the lack of consultation with local communities as a key problem, as well as lack of coordination with the municipal government. They have also pointed to lack of transparency about how the program will be run. (See, for example, Open Society Foundations' Pedro Abramovay's interview with Globo News.)

A demonstration Jacarezinho denounced police abuses within the occupation operative, such as raids on houses without warrants, destruction of property, and confiscation of identity documents. (Brasil 247

"Until now, "Cidade Integrada" is nothing more than a speech in tweets and a mere police operation in Jacarezinho, like so many others, strategically launched in an election year," writes investigative journalist Cecília Olliveira, executive director of the Fogo Cruzado Institute in UOL. (See also, Carta Capital, for example.)

More Brazil
  • The case of a massive Bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme in Brazil, underscores the fast-growing appetite for cryptocurrencies in the country, where digital currencies present an attractive protection against devaluation and double-digit inflation, reports the Associated Press.

School Closures -- Americas Quarterly

Latin America had the world’s longest Covid-19 school closures. Americas Quarterly surveys the damage in a new special report, while exploring possible solutions.  More than 7 million Latin American children may grow up unable to read proficiently because of the pandemic, the World Bank says. Without urgent action, an entire generation may be left behind.
  • Despite grim statistics, a post-pandemic renaissance in learning is possible – the current crisis could encour­age a cycle of reforms to education more inclusive and more relevant to the needs of a changing, com­plicated world, writes Fernando Reimers in Americas Quarterly.

  • "Thoughtful investment in learning after the pandemic is a must for the region’s leaders," argues Susan Segal in Americas Quarterly.

  • Several initiatives launched in Argentina last year aim to prevent long-term regression in student learning. "A mix of new tools and old-fashioned persistence, the plans are wide-reaching, innovative and not especially ex­pensive to implement. As such, they may eventu­ally serve as a model for other countries across the Americas," writes Natalie Alcoba in Americas Quarterly.
More Education
  • Almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic, more than 635 million children globally remain affected by full or partial school closures, the United Nations said yesterday. In low- and middle-income countries, UNICEF said up to 70 percent of 10-year-olds could not read or comprehend a simple text, up from 53 percent before the coronavirus became a pandemic in March 2020. (New York Times)
News Briefs

  • Two moderate earthquakes shook southwest Haiti yesterday, killing two people, injuring dozens of students and damaging hundreds of homes. The quakes created panic in a region that was rocked by a powerful tremor that killed more than 2,000 last August. (Associated Press)
  • A political crisis in Honduras over who will lead the country's Congress -- the fight has pitted president-elect Xiomara Castro against dissident members of her own Libre party -- has "quickly altered the political atmosphere in Honduras, where the scars of the 2009 coup that removed Castro’s husband Manuel Zelaya from office remain," explains El Faro English. As of yesterday afternoon, "Honduras still had two parallel Congressional leaderships, both under suspicion of illegality, a sign that does not bode well for the stability for the first days of Castro’s presidency."
    (See yesterday's post.)

  • Jorge Cálix, the lawmaker selected to head Congress by dissident Libre party members in alliance with the Partido Nacional and Partido Liberal, suggested holding a new vote yesterday, in a session he would lead. (AFP)

  • Honduras is a case study on how U.S. clothing brands can be parasitic in their global search for cheap labor, reports the Guardian. "U.S. corporations and the U.S. State Department have worked together for decades to bring cheap garments to American consumers, framing job creation as a blessing for the Honduran economy while simultaneously engaging in political interventions that keep Honduran citizens poor."
  • A U.S. offer to loosen sanctions against Venezuela's government "is not indefinite" and could be reversed if the ruling party does not return to talks with the opposition, opposition leader Juan Guaidó said yesterday. (Reuters)

  • Opposition candidate Sergio Garrido's win in the Barinas governorship race earlier this month "changes the symbolic map of Venezuela’s internal diatribe," argues Ociel Alí López in Nacla. "In a race that proves taking power through the ballot box is possible, the radical opposition is the biggest loser." (See Jan 10's post.)
  • Five former paramilitary patrolmen were sentenced to 30 years each for the rape of five Maya Achi women in the early 1980s, during the country's brutal civil war. Yesterday's ruling was hailed as vindication for survivors who have spent years fighting for justice, reports the Guardian.
  • Slavery reparations from former colonial powers to Caribbean nations could protect the region from Chinese financing initiatives and infrastructure projects that could increase corruption, argues Kenneth Mohammed in a Guardian piece.

  • The tourist industries in several Central American countries are struggling to recover from the pandemic, because of hesitancy, many hospitality businesses and tourism companies are having to reinvent themselves, reports the Washington Post.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 

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