Category Archives: Latin America

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.

Femicides soar in one of Mexico’s richest states

Morelos, via Wikipedia.

Morelos, via Wikipedia.

Morelos is one of the Mexico’s smallest states, and it’s population of 1.9 million ranks near the low end of the population scale, but its capital, Cuernavaca, provides villas fore some of the nation’s richest, and is a popular destination for wealthy tourists.

Morelos stands out in one other regard: Its women are the all-too-frequent targets of killers, and there’s been no diminution in the murder rate, despite a much-touted government program.

From teleSUR English:

In late 2015 the Mexican state of Morelos declared a “Gender Violence Alert” due to the alarming rate of femicides, yet more than a year later the issue persists with record levels of killings in 2016.

According to Proceso magazine, 53 women have been killed in Morelos this year.

Activists say the alert has not resulted in any concrete changes, further exacerbating an already serious problem, and local governments seem at a loss at how to approach the issue.

“No one has any idea what they need to do, they put people in charge who have no experience and even less training to face a phenomenon of this nature. They do not invest, because they do not care,” Preciado Bahena, an organizer with the Committee against the Femicide in Morelos, told Proceso.

Bahena says the killings of 53 women is proof the “Gender Violence Alert” has been an exercise in public relations and a failure.

The activists say the government of Morelos has opted to engage in “meetings and events for the cameras, but does nothing to really change course inside the government.”

Case against former Brazilian president is failing

The immensely popular Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, son of sharecroppers, labor activist, and co-founder of the Partido dos Trabalhadores [PT], served as President of Brazil from 2003 through 201i.

He was succeeded by party ally Dilma Rousseff, who served until her impeachment in August in a legislative coup based on questionable corruption charges.

Winning Rousseff’s ouster, neoliberals in the national legislature then turned their guns on her more popular predecessor, and Lula was brought up on corruption charges.

But then a little problem arose.

From teleSUR English:

Every witness called on Friday by the prosecution in the case of alleged corruption against former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denied any irregularities.

Judge Sergio Moro has accused Lula twice of being the mastermind behind the largest corruption scheme in the country’s history, involving the state-run Petrobras oil company.

“Prosecutors in the Car Wash investigation claim to have knowledge that Lula received bribes from a contractor for facilitating fraud in contracts in Petrobras, but none of the witnesses called by prosecutors themselves confirmed this thesis,” said a spokesperson of former President Lula.

Among the witnesses called today were former senators and businessmen in Brazil, who said they did not have any meetings or conversations with Lula over fraudulent processes and some of them flat out said they had nothing to say on the subject.

Even though Lula da Silva had been cleared of all charges, judicial authorities continue to attack the leftist politician and allege the former president directly benefited from an apartment in Guaruja and a farm in Atibaia, both in the state of Sao Paulo.

Lula has denied any wrongdoing and has previously said that his persecution is driven by political interests who want to destroy his candidacy for the election in 2018, as he has one of the highest approval ratings in the country.

Even though Lula da Silva had been cleared of all charges, judicial authorities continue to attack the leftist politician and allege the former president directly benefited from an apartment in Guaruja and a farm in Atibaia, both in the state of Sao Paulo.

Lula has denied any wrongdoing and has previously said that his persecution is driven by political interests who want to destroy his candidacy for the election in 2018, as he has one of the highest approval ratings in the country.

Corruption? Just consider his opponents

From Glenn Greenwald, a Braxilian resident, writing in the Intercept:

A primary argument made by opponents of impeaching Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was that removing her would immediately empower the truly corrupt politicians in Brasília — the ones who were the driving force behind her impeachment — and they would then use that power to kill ongoing corruption investigations and shield themselves from consequences for their own law-breaking. In that regard, Dilma’s impeachment was not designed to punish corruption but to protect it. The last two weeks have produced new corruption scandals that have vindicated that view beyond what even its proponents imagined was possible.

In his short time in office, Temer has already lost five ministers to scandal, but these new controversies are the most serious yet. One major scandal involves an effort in Congress — led by the very parties that impeached Dilma, with the support of some in Dilma’s party — to pass a law that vests themselves full legal amnesty for their crimes involving election financing. In late September, a bill appeared in Congress, seemingly out of nowhere, that would have retroactively protected any member of Congress from being punished for the use of so-called “caixa dois” monies in campaigns, whereby politicians receive under-the-table contributions from oligarchs and corporations that they do not declare.

Many of Brazil’s most powerful politicians — including its Foreign Minister, a majority of members of the lower House, and installed President Michel Temer himself — are implicated in this scheme and are thus threatened with the possibility of prosecution. “Caixa dois” has been a key tactic used to bribe politicians. The issue has taken on particular urgency because the imprisoned billionaire CEO of the nation’s construction giant Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht, is about to finalize his plea agreement, and it will identify numerous key figures as having received millions of dollars in such undeclared donations.

It has already been reported that Temer’s Foreign Minister, José Serra, received R$ 23 million ($7 million) in such illegal funds from Odebrecht, much of which was deposited into a Swiss Bank account to avoid detection (those funds were for his losing 2010 presidential campaign against Dilma, showing how those who lost democratically and are mired in serious corruption are the ones who have now seized power due to Dilma’s impeachment).

Temer’s way-paver has already been arrested

And as the Guardian reported last month, Temer’s closest ally and the man who paved his path to power is already facing charges:

Eduardo Cunha, the Brazilian politician who orchestrated the impeachment of the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, has been arrested on corruption charges.

Federal police detained the former speaker of the lower house in Brasilia on Wednesday and executed a search warrant at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Compared by some to Frank Underwood from House of Cards, Cunha also has been accused of taking up to 116.5m reais ($37m) in bribes as part of the Operation Car Wash investigation into mammoth corruption at state oil giant Petrobras.

The arrest was ordered by federal judge Sergio Moro, who has gained celebrity in Brazil by leading that probe, which has ensnared dozens of leading politicians.

When a horrible necessity mothers an invention

In a country where lethal gunfire is an everyday occurrence for children walking to and from school, a Mexican child has come up with an invention he hopes will spare the lives of himself and his classmates.

From teleSUR English:

Juan David Hernandez Rojas, from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, is only 11 years old but he’s come up with an innovative solution to the dangers of violence posed by the country’s ongoing conflict with organized crime groups: he’s made a bullet-resistant backpack.

“In my city shootings and robberies are very frequent, unfortunately, and that’s why I invented the safety backpack,” Hernandez told Proceso magazine at the ExpoCiencias Tamaulipas science fair.

In a video shared on Twitter by Ruido en la Red, the primary school student speaks nonchalantly about the shootouts that happen in the city of Matamoros as he shows off the features of his backpack.

The bag is lined with bullet-resistant material, has an alarm, a light and a GPS locator. “So my parents can easily find me in case I don’t show up,” says Hernandez.

He even demonstrates how the bag would be used in the event a student is caught in the middle of a shootout and needs to protect themselves from an errant bullet.

Hernandez says his bag “marks the difference between life, death, and desperation.”

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill

In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.

Trump advisor wants regime change in Cuba

An appointment to Trump’s advisory team spells what could well be an end to the rapprochement with Cuba engineered in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Such a move could complicate Trump’s professed admiration of Vladimir Putin’s Russian government, a key supporter of the Cuba.

From El País:

Lobbyists in favor of maintaining the United States’ long-standing trade and investment embargo on Cuba have scored a major victory with the inclusion in Donald Trump’s transition team of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a key figure in the fight against any thaw in relations between Washington and Havana.

Claver-Carone was named by Trump to the transition team for the US Department of the Treasury, where he was an attorney-adviser until November of 2003.

One of the harshest critics of President Barack Obama’s efforts since December of 2014 to improve relations with Cuba, Claver-Carone’s appointment to the Trump team signals a reversal of some of those changes.

He is executive director of the US-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC), as well as Cuba Democracy Advocates, which describes itself as “a non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of a transition in Cuba toward human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

Tijuana braces for massive deportee flows

With Donald Trump unyielding on his plans for massive deportations of undocumented immigrants, one Mexican city stands to bear much of the brunt.

And now they’re getting ready for actions Trump has promised to initiate on his first day in the White House less than two months hence.

From Fox News Latino:

Since Donald Trump’s promise to “immediately deport two to three million undocumented immigrants,” the Mexican city of Tijuana has been preparing to bear the brunt of an immigration exodus on a scale never before seen in the country.

Nicknamed Mexico’s “deportee capital,” Tijuana has received 40 percent of all U.S. deportations since 2010 – an average of 7,500 a month – and officials say they are expecting this number to double under a Trump presidency.

“We are expecting U.S. deportations to Tijuana to grow to 150,000 annually in the next two years,” Rosario Lozada, the head of Tijuana’s Migrant Attention program, told Fox News Latino. “We are concerned by the situation, because we struggle to cope with the volume of deportees we currently receive.”

Lozada heads up a local government program that seeks to help deportees rebuild their lives following ejection from the United States. Rosario and her team offer counseling and temporary accommodation, with the final goal of encouraging deportees to leave Tijuana, an aim she says has become more difficult in recent years.