Category Archives: Latin America

More corruption woes for Brazilian government

The day after throngs of Brazilians took to the streets to efforts to rein in judges investigating corruption in the government that took power in a legislative coup [earlier], a judge has ordered a key member to that government removed from office.

From BBC News:

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has ordered one of the country’s most senior politicians, Renan Calheiros, to stand down as president of the Senate.

Judge Marco Aurelio Mello issued an injunction saying Mr Calheiros’s position was untenable after the court ruled last week that he must face trial for alleged embezzlement.

Mr Calheiros has been accused of taking bribes from a construction company. He is a close ally of centre-right President Michel Temer.

Judge Marco Aurelio Mello approved the injunction requested by the left-wing Rede party arguing that a politician facing criminal charges cannot be in the presidential line of succession.

As head of the Senate, Mr Calheiros is second in line after the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia.

Massive anti-corruption protests erupt in Brazil

After a neoliberal legislative coup brought down the center-left Brazilian government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, replacing her with a stalwart of the privatize-and-plunder agenda that seems to be all the rage these days, the self-installed replacement regime has been rocked by scandals of its own.

And the Brazilian people want those scandals investigated and prosecuted.

They took to the streets in drove Sunday to demand just that.

From El País:

Once again, Brazilians are taking to the streets to protest against their politicians. Sunday saw huge marches in cities throughout the country that are being seen as a warning to politicians not to tamper with the judiciary as it attempts to unravel a vast corruption network centered on state oil company Petrobras.

The protests were not directed specifically at President Michel Temer, who took over after Dilma Rousseff was impeached earlier this year, and whose popularity rating is just 14%, but were instead largely aimed at members of his PMDB party, several of whom are under investigation for corruption. Temer has promised to kickstart Brazil’s ailing economy with a series of reform measures he hopes to push through Congress.

The march in Rio de Janeiro attracted a wide range of protesters, from anti-abortion rights activists to those calling for a military government, along with many chanting the name of Sergio Moro, the judge overseeing the so-called Lava Jato investigation into corruption at Petrobras. Among those alleged to have been involved in a complex web of graft are members of the Workers’ Party, including former President Ignacio Lula da Silva, as well as Temer’s PMDB, and the conservative PP, which has supported both parties in Congress.


In large part, Sunday’s protests were sparked by a vote in Congress in the early hours of Wednesday – while the country was in mourning for the victims of the Chapecoense plane crash in Colombia – that watered down a series of anti-corruption proposals put forward by the Attorney General’s office.

How many innocents killed by Mexican army?

The answer, it seems, is a state secret.

From teleSUR English:

Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in Mexico, the army has stopped reporting on the number of civilian deaths at the hands of the military, according to an investigation by local media outlet Animal Politico.

“They don’t mention dead civilians anymore, they’ve disappeared from official speech and there’s simply no way of exactly knowing those figures,” report Animal Politico. Since the beginning of Peña Nieto’s administration, which began in December 2012, the military has refrained from informing the public about these figures, it claims.

The latest official statistic provided by the military states that between 2006 when Mexico’s drug war began up until August 2012, 3,000 people were killed by the military including 56 civilians who were not involved in drug trafficking.

When asked about compensation provided to the families of victims, the army acknowledged it had provided compensation to the families of 12 victims between 2008 and 2011, but left out figures for the current administration.

From the Peña Nieto administration, the military does however recognize 32 payments between 2013 and 2014 amounting to US$7.8 million, according to Animal Politico.

But this figure fails to take into account a a raft of abuses, such as the 22 people who were killed on June 30, 2014, in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico, 15 of whom were executed. The military personnel involved in the incident were not charged with any crime.

Cartel victims overflow morgues in Guerrero

In Mexico’s state of Guerrero, cartel victims are falling so rapidly that morgues in one city have no place left for them.

Guerrero is the same state when students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College vanished after a violent abduction on the night of 26 September 2014.

From Borderland Beat:

The bodies of the 10 men executed yesterday found in the Chilpancingo area,  remain lying on the parking and entrance area of the Forensic Medical Service of the capital (Semefo), because there are no room in the morgue freezers. The weather in the city is averaging 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

The storage capacity has been exceeding capacity because of the runaway violence that has  plagued the region and reflects the failure of the federal security strategy that directs the Army to gain stability in the  state and assist municipal authorities to combat drug trafficking. All three government entities, have long been accused  of corruption and being in collusion with organized crime.

In the Semefo of Chilpancingo, which depends on the state Health Department, there are two cold storage units with the capacity to store 100 bodies each  and both are typically near or over capacity.

Therefore, the 10 executed bodies found yesterday in Chilpancingo,  remain lying in the parking lot of Semefo, in the capital of Guerrero, due to the lack of space to ensure decent treatment for victims of the drug war, that has engulfed the state in one of the worst ever crises of insecurity, similar to 2012 violence, where the official number of intentional homicides exceeded two thousand that year.

Map of the day: Massive drought in South America


From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

Even before the 2016 dry season started in South America, a marked deficit in rainfall was apparent across much of the continent. Parts of the Amazon, for example, were already far drier than in 2005 and 2010, the last serious drought years. Now, as the wet season approaches, intense drought still runs deep across the Amazon basin and much of Brazil.

The map above shows the accumulated deficit in rainfall flowing into surface and groundwater storage as of October 2016. The data were compiled by the Global Precipitation Climatology Centre, which analyzes precipitation data collected from rain gauges. Red areas show the level of the rainfall deficit compared to the norm for October, while blue areas had more than usual amounts of rainfall.

Some areas fared better than others. For example, Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, is located between areas that were anomalously dry (to the north) and others that were anomalously wet (south). The city has reportedly received sufficient rain since late 2015 to begin raising the water level in its main reservoir system.

But as the map also shows, rainfall elsewhere in Brazil and the Amazon was far below normal for October. It remains to be seen whether the rainfall associated with the wet season can break the ongoing drought.

“In Brazil, the rainy season is the austral summer, from December to March,” said Augusto Getirana, a hydrologist and remote sensing scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’s hard to tell if this summer will be the same, but considering the pattern of previous years, my guess would be a yes.”

Getirana knows well the patters of recent years. In February 2016, he published a satellite-based study showing that southeastern Brazil lost 6.1 centimeters of water per year from 2012 to 2015. That may not sound like much, but in terms of volume over the entire area, that’s 56 trillion liters of water.

Bolivia devastated by drought; glaciers vanish

California isn’t the only major region afflicted by a devastating and ongoing drought.

Bolivia, a nation with far less financial resources than the Golden State, is being hit even harder, with glaciers that once provided the major water source for one of its largest cities now rapidly vanishing.

From EcoWatch:

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto—where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply—have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time.

A recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) says:

“Temperatures in the region have risen by 0.5°C in the period 1976 to 2006, and the people of La Paz and El Alto can observe evidence of climate change in the form of the shrinking snowline in the mountains above them.

“One glacier on Chacaltaya mountain—which rises above El Alto and which once hosted the world’s highest ski resort—has already completely disappeared. And the two Tuni-Condoriri glaciers that provide water for El Alto and La Paz lost 39 percent of their area between 1983 and 2006—at a rate of 0.24 sq km per year.”

Yet another Brazilian government leader resigns

Following up on today’s earlier post about the impending collapse of the case against former Brazilian President  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, yet another member of the regime imposed by the neoliberals who impeached his successor has been forced to call it quits.

From MercoPress:

A Brazilian minister resigned on Friday amid allegations that he enlisted President Michel Temer’s help to pressure a fellow Cabinet member to approve a luxury apartment development project in a preservation zone. The announcement feeds a growing scandal over alleged misuse of power that threatens Temer’s presidency only six months after he replaced a predecessor ousted from office by Congress — and at a time corruption investigations have tarred many senior politicians.

At least one opposition party says it will submit a motion to impeach the new president.

Temer, who is deeply unpopular with many Brazilians, has been struggling to push through an ambitious austerity agenda he says will pull Latin America’s largest economy out of its worst recession in decades. Since May, his administration has lurched from one scandal to the next, but until now, none had directly implicated the president.

Temer’s administration “just turned six months and it already looks old,” Fabio Zanini, political editor of the daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, wrote Friday. “The strategy to win popular legitimacy with an economic recovery and political stability is quickly sinking for a president who was not supported by the popular vote.”

The latest crisis started when former Culture Minister Marcelo Calero told federal police that Temer’s legislative affairs minister, Geddel Vieira Lima, pressured him to allow construction of a luxury building in a historic preservation area in the city of Salvador, Bahía, 1,000 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro. Lima had bought a unit in the planned development.