Category - Latin America

Bolivia: Potosi General Strike Paralyzes Mining Town

Revolution News, By Erin Gallagher, July 16

Today marks 9 days since a general strike began in Potosi, Bolivia. The Civic Committee Potosina (Comcipo) after walking for 12 days, arrived in La Paz on July 7 asking for an audience with President Evo Morales. Meanwhile in Potosi, massive marches are ongoing and a general strike is in effect which has paralyzed the Bolivian mining town.

Potosi sits at the bottom of Cerro Rico (rich mountain), which is known as the worlds largest silver deposit however the poverty rate in the department of Potosi is one of the highest in the country. 66.7% of the Potosi population lives in extreme poverty. 64% of the municipalities in rural areas are in extreme poverty and some municipalities reach poverty levels of 90%.

Child mortality rates are also the highest in the country: for every 1000 live child births, 101 babies die. Chronic malnutrition affects 38.8% of the population. According to a 2003 study by the Bolivian National Statistic Institute, 98% of local children under 5 years old developed diarrhea and intestinal problems.

The Cerro Rico mines employ an estimated 15,000 miners and is known as “the mountain that eats men” due the number of workers who have died there. An average of 20 people die each month from work related accidents at the Potosi Mines of Cerro Rico. Life expectancy for miners in Potosi is a shocking 40 years old due to dangerous working conditions and illnesses caused by breathing in silica dust or asbestos. These statistics are only part of the social conflicts affecting Potosi today.

A list of 26 demands from November 2014 is presented as the main point of negotiation of the current conflicts in Potosi. The list includes items such as hospitals, bridge and road construction, wind power, a garbage recycling plant, medical items for doctors and nurses, an international airport, preservation of Cerro Rico, a cement factory, a glass factory, hydroelectric plants and educational items for social workers, teachers and psychologists.

With Little Fanfare, Mexican Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

New York Times, By Randcal C. Archibold * Pauline Villegas, June 14

Mexico City – His church turned him away, his family discouraged him from a public fight and the government of the state where he lives vowed it would never happen.

But it did. Hiram Gonzalez married his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, last year in the northern state of Chihuahua, which, like most Mexican states, technically allows marriage only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Gonzalez and dozens of other gay couples in recent months have, however, found a powerful ally: Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage in Mexico without enshrining it in law.

Noam Chomsky Among Intellectuals to Slam Peru Mining Project and Government Repression

Telesur, June 6

A letter signed by over 300 intellectuals has urged the Peruvian government to give into the demands of anti-mining protesters.

Hundreds of intellectuals, led by U.S. author Noam Chomsky, have urged Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to end a multinational mining project and the government repression of protests against it, in a letter released Friday by the nongovernmental organization CooperAccion.

“We demand the Tia Maria project is suspended definitively, considering its social, political, economic and environmental unsustainability,” Spanish agency EFE reported the letter said.

The group of writers, artists and academics also expressed their “firm rejection of the declaration of the state of emergency” in the southern province of Islay, where farmers have been fighting the Mexican-American Southern Copper Corporation since mining plans were announced in 2009. Last month, Peru declared a state of emergency in the region after protests escalated, resulting in four deaths and 200 injured.

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The signatories note that they are “very concerned about the indiscriminate use of firearms” by the police, and the “unconditional defense of the interests of a foreign private company at the expense of the security and interests of citizens.”

The government has sent in thousands of police and military to quell protests, which activists fear will only lead to more deaths. Local communities have slammed the initiative as damaging the availability of water and therefore limiting the production of rice, sugar cane, and paprika in the valley of the Tambo river.

Venezuelans mass for year’s largest anti-government protests

AP, By Hannah Dreier, May 30

Caracas – Thousands donned white and took to the streets in cities across the country Saturday in the biggest show of frustration with Venezuela’s socialist administration since a wave of bloody anti-government protests a year ago.

The day of marches was called less than a week ago by imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. In a video leaked from his prison cell, Lopez urged demonstrations to demand a firm date for this year’s legislative elections and freedom for jailed opposition politicians like himself who human rights groups consider political prisoners.

A Harvard-educated former mayor, Lopez has been jailed for 15 months in connection with his leadership of the spring of 2014 protests that resulted in dozens of deaths on both sides of Venezuela’s yawning political divide.

The opposition coalition did not endorse Saturday’s rallies, underscoring longstanding fissures among critics of the country’s 16-year socialist government. Before his imprisonment last year, Lopez clashed with other high-profile politicians, including moderate opposition leader Henrique Capriles, about the wisdom of organizing nationwide protests.

Military Could Step in Over Brazil Drought Chaos

An engineer for Sao Paulo state’s water company said that “scenes from the end of the world” would ensue if the city ran out of water.

Telesur, May 6

The drought in the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo has become so severe that local authorities are considering bringing in military personnel to cope with the possible social chaos.

With over 11 million residents, Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most populous city and the country’s economic center. But senior officials at Sao Paulo’s water facility said residents might soon be evacuated because there is not enough water, to bathe or to clean homes.

The water crisis is the worst is the last 84 years, and the dry season has only just begun, with less water in the dams than in 2014, when restrictions on water began and the authorities began to realize the seriousness of the disaster.

Last week, a conference between academics, military employees and local councils to discuss how to handle the coming five months in the case that reserves run out, and the city might go up to five days without water.

Paulo Massato, engineer at the state water company, told the conference that water supplies could run out as early as July, if emergency works are not finished in time.

Engineers are working to create infrastructure to connect various reservoirs, which, if completed, would mean that there would be enough water to last until October.

IBT: São Paulo Drought 2015: Photos Of Historic Water Crisis In Brazil Show City On The Brink Of Collapse

Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More

Japan eyes ‘large scale’ cooperation with Cuba

AFP, May 2

Havana – The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch “large scale cooperation” with Havana to support the island’s reforms.

In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to “a new level.”

Kishida, who traveled with a delegation of 30 Japanese business leaders, said Japan wants to launch a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” to support reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro.

He said the scheme was called “non-reimburseable financial assistance.”

“Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations,” Kishida said.

Over 150 injured in teachers’ protest in Brazil

Xinhua, April 29

Rio De Janiero – Over 150 people were injured on Wednesday in a confrontation between protesting teachers and the police in southern Brazil.

The bloodshed in Curitiba, Parana state, marked the second consecutive day of clashes since teachers in the state started camping outside of the State Assembly since Monday.

The protest was against a bill that makes changes in Parana Previdencia, the state civil workers’ pension and retirement system.

While the State Assembly voted the bill, police and protesters fought outside. The protesting teachers used sticks and stones to fight the cops, who used stun bombs, rubber bullets, dogs, pepper spray and tear gas against the teachers. In addition, the police threw stun bombs from a helicopter.

Brazilians Spraying and Praying for Dengue Vaccine Breakthrough

Bloomberg, By Mac Margolis, April 24

A cup of cloves, a half-liter of alcohol and a dollop of body oil: You won’t find this homemade mosquito repellent in Brazilian drugstores, but the recipe went viral after a worried sanitarian posted a cell phone video on Facebook last week.

Amid one of their worst outbreaks of dengue fever — 460,000 people infected and 132 dead this year — Brazilians are understandably jumpy. That humming sound is aedes aegypti, a familiar pest storied for spreading yellow fever throughout tropical America and now enjoying a comeback as the vector for what has become a 21st-century pandemic.

Once a mostly Asian affliction, the dengue virus has gone global because of breakneck urbanization, bad management of water, haphazard public health care and travel on jets that can take passengers anywhere overnight. A 2013 study in Nature reckoned that dengue had infected 390 million people that year, with 94 million falling ill.

The outbreak is especially severe in the Americas, which have seen a 30-fold increase in the disease over the past 50 years. Counting hospitalization and sick leave, the disease costs the region at least $2.1 billion a year, says the Pan American Health Organization.

Brazil, alone, accounts for six of every 10 reported cases of illness from dengue worldwide.

After Record Drought, Dengue Fever Is Now Sweeping Across Sao Paulo

Both opposition candidates concede defeat in Cuban vote

AP, By Michael Weissenstein & Anne-Marie Garcia, April 19

Havana – Two dissident candidates conceded defeat Sunday in Cuban local elections that offered them a chance to become the first officials elected from outside the Communist Party in 40 years.

Hildebrando Chaviano and Yuniel Lopez had been chosen as candidates by a show of hands in Havana neighborhood nominating meetings and hoped to win two of the 12,589 seats at stake in 168 municipal councils.

Both acknowledged they had no chance of winning after preliminary results showed Chaviano in last place of four candidates and one of Lopez’s pro-government opponent with twice his vote.

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