Category Archives: South America

Colombia’s Guerrillas Come Out of the Jungle

Last September, Carlos Antonio Lozada, a commander of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, returned home to a jungle encampment in the vast wetland region called Yarí. He had spent the past two years in Havana, staying in a villa near Fidel Castro’s home, while working with other guerrilla leaders and Colombian diplomats on a peace agreement to end the FARC’s fifty-two-year insurgency—the longest in the Western Hemisphere. His time there had been gruelling: an endless succession of arguments, proposals, and counterproposals, with painful testimony from victims of both sides. “It was non-stop,” Lozada told me. At last, though, on August 24th, the two sides reached an agreement. When Lozada’s plane touched down, los camaradas—his fifty-odd personal bodyguards, young men and women who had been with him since they were little more than children—greeted him on the airstrip with a song that they had composed. “They made me cry,” he told me. “Toward the end of my time in Havana, all I could think about was being back here. The FARC is my family.”As Lozada told me this, he was sitting in a thatched hut in Yarí, which has long been dominated by the FARC, sipping Old Parr Scotch. Communist guerrillas are not known for their fashion sense, but Lozada, a limber man with a shaved head and a small paunch, has a dandyish streak. In Havana, he wore loud tropical shirts and suède loafers. In Yarí, he favored T-shirts in hot pink, canary yellow, sky blue. With such bourgeois tastes, Lozada is an unlikely seeming Marxist revolutionary. But, at fifty-six, he is the youngest member of the seven-man secretariat that governs the FARC.

Source: Colombia’s Guerrillas Come Out of the Jungle – The New Yorker

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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in South America



El sonido del mundo 

¿Los zapatistas han desaparecido? Los medios, alguna vez ávidos de noticias con pasamontañas, los tratan como si hubieran vuelto a la noche de los tiempos.Pero existen, dedicados a la transformación de la vida diaria en sus caracoles y Juntas de Buen Gobierno, y no dejan de plantear iniciativas. Contra la “haraganería del pensamiento”, han organizado estimulantes seminarios internacionales, que prefieren llamar “semilleros”.

Source: El sonido del mundo | Internacional | EL PAÍS

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Posted by on April 2, 2017 in South America



Will Brazilians Cancel Carnival? 

As many as 70 towns and cities around Brazil are reported to have canceled Carnival festivities this year because they are suffering from the worst recession in the country’s recent history.

The mayor of Taquari, in Rio Grande do Sul, has decided to use the money that would have gone to the celebrations to speed up the waiting line for health exams in public hospitals, as well as to fund a project for children with special needs. Last year, the city of Guaraí, in Tocantins, canceled New Year festivities to renovate two public schools, while in Porto Ferreira, a small town in São Paulo State, the local assembly voted to call off Carnival and use the money to buy a new ambulance.

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Posted by on March 4, 2017 in South America



Forasteros transitorios 

concederlo el recién electo presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump. Quieren que se restituya la política de ‘pies secos, pies mojados’ o quieren, al menos, una amnistía para los varados, para aquellos que abandonaron Cuba antes de que el 12 de enero pasado el ex presidente Barack Obama derogara la política que permitía a los residentes de la isla ser admitidos legalmente de manera casi expedita si se presentaban en las fronteras terrestres o si lograban tocar tierra desde el mar.

La petición de los varados llegó al sitio web de la Casa Blanca el pasado 25 de enero y necesitan obtener 100.000 firmas para que la Casa Blanca se pronuncie sobre este asunto. Que responda no significa que conceda la amnistía, o que regrese la política de ‘pies secos, pies mojados’. Significa, apenas, que recibirán algo de atención. Mientras las 100.000 firmas llegan, Jovann Silva Delgado, abogado cubano residente legal en Dallas, Texas, viaja en su auto hasta Nuevo Laredo para dar asesoría legal a quienes duermen en albergues, casas de migrantes manejadas por la iglesia católica, hoteles baratos y otros sitios cerca de la frontera.

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in South America


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Topless Uprising Against Sexism

Buenos Aires — Last month, three women in a coastal Argentine town decided to sunbathe sans bikini tops. It could have been inconsequential, but a tourist complaint drew 20 police officers and six patrol cars to the beach to threaten the women with arrest unless they covered up. The episode quickly incited a national debate leading to demonstrations called “tetazos,” or “boob uprisings.” In early February, nearly 2,000 women gathered in different places around the country — topless or covered — to demand their right to bare their breasts.…11612.13018.0.13870.….0……0i22i30k1j33i160k1.NdKod5DdL0Y

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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in South America


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People power in Puerto Rico: how a canal community escaped gentrification

For years a graffiti message has appeared throughout San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, as an urgent demand: Dragado ya! (meaning “dredging now!”).

Even passersby who have never set foot in the eight barrios making up the Caño Martín Peña community – a large informal settlement along 3.75 miles of canal in the central city – know the message points to the dire need to dredge the waterway, which has become so clogged with refuse that those driving by with the windows down can immediately smell the stagnant waters.

This previously neglected area was originally established on mangrove wetlands and lacks adequate water drainage systems, so even mild rain storms led to flooding that backed up sewage and polluted waters, causing health and environmental problems for its 26,000 residents.

Desperate to alleviate these issues, the local community started organising themselves to demand the dredging of the canal, but feared the rising land values and displacement of families that such neighbourhood improvement tends to bring.

Source: People power in Puerto Rico: how a canal community escaped gentrification

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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in South America



Venezuela, a Failing State

The medical student told me to use his name. He said he didn’t care. “Maduro is a donkey,” he said. “An asshole.” He meant Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela. We were passing through the wards of a large public hospital in Valencia, a city of roughly a million people, a hundred miles west of Caracas. The hallways were dim and stifling, thick with a frightening stench. Some were full of patients waiting silently in long lines outside exam rooms. Others were dark and deserted, with the overhead lighting ripped out. The medical student, lithe and light-haired, kept us moving, peering through swinging doors, conferring with colleagues in blue scrubs.We ducked into a room stuffed with rusted bed frames and dirty plastic barrels, where in a corner a thin young man was propped on a bed without sheets. He watched us weakly. A young woman in a pink T-shirt stood beside him, rigid with surprise. The medical student gently asked if they would answer my questions. The young man nodded. His name was Nestor. He was twenty-one. This was his wife, Grace. Three weeks earlier, he had been ambushed on his motorbike and shot three times, in the chest and the left arm. “They were going to shoot me again, but one of the malandros”—bad guys—“said I was already dead. They took my motorbike.” Nestor spoke slowly, his voice uninflected. His skin was waxy. The wounds to his arm and chest were uncovered, half healed, dark with dried blood. There was a saline drip in his right arm and, at the foot of his bed, an improvised contraption, made from twine and an old one-litre plastic bottle, whose purpose I couldn’t figure out.Did the hospital provide the saline?No. Grace brought it. She also brought food, water, and, when she could find them, bandages, pain medication, antibiotics. These things were available only on the black market, at high prices, and Grace’s job, in a warehouse, paid less than a dollar a day.“The hospital doesn’t even give water,” the medical student said. He was watching the hallway. He studied Nestor briefly. “The lungs fill with liquid after someone is shot in the thorax,” he told me. “We usually take the bullet out if we can. But, either way, the wounds need to be drained.”Were the police investigating the robbery?Nestor looked down. The naïveté of the question left it beneath reply. Venezuela has, by various measures, the world’s highest violent-crime rate. Less than two per cent of reported crimes are prosecuted.We had to go, the medical student said. Grace and Nestor thanked us, though we had done nothing for them. The medical student was worried about what he called “spies.” He had smuggled me into the hospital through a broken back door. The regular entrances to the hospital were all manned by uniformed personnel with rifles—National Guard, mostly, but also police, both local and national, and other, less identifiable militia. Hospitals in Caracas were even more tightly secured. Why were hospitals so heavily guarded? Nobody threatened to invade them. The guards had orders, it was said, to keep out journalists. Exposés had embarrassed the government.

Source: Venezuela, a Failing State – The New Yorker

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in South America



Chaos in Brazil: More to Come?

Things are not well in Brazil. The country’s social and economic tensions are rising and seem increasingly prone to erupt into violence. For the past six days, for instance, there has been a frenzy of looting, mugging, rioting, and murder in and around Vitória, which anchors a metropolitan area of about two million and is the capital of the state of Espírito Santo, north of Rio de Janeiro. The reason for the mayhem is the absence of police officers, after Espírito Santo’s force went on strike last Saturday to demand that its pay be doubled. The police union has said that its members have not received raises in four years. Family members of the officers have joined the strike by creating human barricades around the state’s police stations.

Source: Chaos in Brazil: More to Come? – The New Yorker

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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in South America



A Same-Sex Couple Set Out to Adopt a Child. They Ended Up With Three.

When Alexandre Louzada and Francisco David decided that they wanted to adopt a child, they had only a small number of specific preferences.The couple wanted a child no older than 6 years of age. They were willing to adopt a child with chronic, treatable diseases such as diabetes or fetal alcohol syndrome, but not one with untreatable conditions — such as blindness or paralysis — which they believed themselves financially and emotionally incapable of supporting.And, unlike many prospective parents in Brazil — where a substantial portion of adopting parents only want a white child — they had no preferences when it came to race or gender. About 70 percent of the children eligible for adoption in Brazil are black or mixed race, which means that many parents who want to adopt are closed off to the possibility of taking most of the ones who need a home.

Source: A Same-Sex Couple Set Out to Adopt a Child. They Ended Up With Three.

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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in South America


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The Secret, Dangerous World of Venezuelan Bitcoin Mining 

Four years ago, Alberto’s career prospects were bleak. The 23-year-old Venezuelan had just graduated from college with a degree in computer science, but his nation’s economy was already shredded by 13 years of socialism.

“There were job opportunities, but they paid like $20 a month, and we were used to traveling and buying things from abroad so we couldn’t settle for that,” his friend Luis recalls. Alberto and Luis—whose names have been changed for their own safety—teamed up to start a clothing business, but the venture floundered.

Then Alberto discovered bitcoin mining.

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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in South America