Category - Latin America

‘We are like a bomb’: food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics

Three years of shortages have left Venezuelans desperate and angry for change, posing the most serious threat yet to President Nicolás Maduro.

The Guardian, By Sibylla Brodzinsky, May 20

Guarenas, Venezuela – The rumour was there would be chicken.

Word had spread that a delivery of poultry meat was due at the Central Madeirense supermarket, and long before dawn a queue of shoppers was snaking around the block.

Kattya Alonzo was one of them. The 48-year-old mother of three was already planning to make the traditional chicken and rice dish arroz con pollo – if she could also find some rice.
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Venezuela declares ‘economic emergency’ amid currency woes

France24, January 16

Venezuela’s socialist government decreed an “economic emergency” on Friday that will expand its powers and published the first data in a year that shows the depth of a recession fueled by low oil prices and a sputtering state-led model.

The central bank, which has been lambasted by critics of President Nicolas Maduro’s government for hiding statistics since the end of 2014, said the South American OPEC nation’s economy shrank 4.5 percent in the first nine months last year.

Inflation soared in that period to an annual rate of 141.5 percent, the world’s worst. Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy is forecast to perform abysmally again in 2016. Maduro lost control of the National Assembly in a December election due to voter ire over the crisis.

The government’s decree, which the opposition-led assembly says it has the power to approve or reject, sets a 60-day “economic emergency” and would give Maduro wider powers to intervene in companies or limit access to currency.

“We are confronting a true storm,” Maduro said during his state-of-the-nation address to Congress. “This is not Maduro’s storm, as some believe, it is a situation throughout the country that affects every Venezuelan family.”

Bolivia Declares Disappearance of Lake a National Disaster

Bolivia’s second largest lake has all but disappeared entirely, underlining the urgency of conservation and carbon reductions to tackle climate change.

Telesurv, December 20

Bolivia’s second largest lake has dried up with devastating impacts, proving that financial support from the European Union was not enough to save the high-altitude saltwater ecosystem of Bolivia’s Lake Poopo prompting local authorities to declare a national disaster, local media reported Sunday.

The governor of the Oruro province where the lake is located, Victor Hugo Vasquez, enacted a law to declare the situation a natural disaster. The measure is aimed at speeding up the acquisition and use of funds to improve the disastrous situation, which affects the economy of the population in eight municipalities in the area.

South of La Paz at a height of over 12,000 feet in Bolivia’s altiplano mountain region, the saltwater lake covered a surface area of over 750 square miles just two decades ago, but the government-declared “disaster zone” has reached crisis levels lake bed becomes as the increasingly parched.

Mexico Supreme Court rules pot use is constitutional right

Landmark decision legalizes recreational use for marijuana club members only; move likely to force legislative action.

Al Jazeera, By Alfonso Serrano, November 4

Smoking marijuana is a basic human right. That extraordinary argument swayed Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, when it ruled that a federal health law prohibiting cannabis cultivation and personal use violates the constitution — an unprecedented decision that may trigger similar court appeals and pressure the country’s congress to weigh widespread legalization of the drug.

In a landmark interpretation of drug laws widely blamed for violence that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico, a panel of five judges ruled in favor of a nonprofit marijuana club — the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Autoconsumption, or SMART — which argued that the health law violates the right to the “free development of one’s personality.” In essence, SMART lawyers successfully claimed that the constitution allows individuals the autonomy to experiment with the effects of cannabis despite the potential dangers the practice entails.

The 4-1 ruling followed an injunction filed by SMART against a 2013 ruling by Mexico’s health regulator that prohibited the organization from cultivating and consuming cannabis for recreational purposes.

“It’s a historic ruling because it centers the drug policy discussion on human rights, because it declares that prohibitions concerning personal use and cultivation are excessive,” said Lisa Sánchez, Latin America program manager for U.K.-based the nonprofit Transform Drug Policy Foundation. “This is a very important step. It not only gives us jurisprudence. It demonstrates an incoherence between the country’s most qualified jurists and congressional legislation. This should have an effect on Congress to reform [drug] policy as soon as possible.”

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper Than Thought

Reuters, October 30

Ottawa – New satellite data shows Brazil’s drought is worse than previously thought, with the southeast losing 56 trillion liters of water in each of the past three years – more than enough to fill Lake Tahoe, a NASA scientist said on Friday.

The country’s most severe drought in 35 years has also caused the Brazil’s larger and less-populated northeast to lose 49 trillion liters of water each year over three years compared with normal levels, said NASA hydrologist Augusto Getirana.

Brazilians are well aware of the drought due to water rationing, power blackouts and empty reservoirs in parts of the country but this is the first study to document exactly how much water has disappeared from aquifers and reservoirs, Getirana said.

“It is much larger than I imagined,” Getirana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “With climate change, this is going to happen more and more often.”

Mexicans to March to Commemorate Ayotzinapa and Tlatelolco 1968

This year marks the 47th anniversary of the government massacre of students in the Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City in 1968.

Telesurv, October 2

Thousands of Mexicans will march in the capital of Mexico City Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1968 massacre of students by the state in Tlatelolco Plaza, in the heart of the capital.

This year’s march will hold special significance as the march will again remember the 43 forcibly disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college and because the Mexico City police carried out unprecedented exercises simulating disturbances as if they expected violence to erupt this Friday.

Their disappearance, in the southern state of Guerrero on Sept. 26-27, 2014, happened as the students were gathering funds in order to participate in the commemoration of the 1968 massacre [Wikipedia] in Mexico City.


Student massacre demonstration turns violent in Mexico

Clashes have erupted between protesters and police in Mexico after thousands of people took to the streets of the capital to commemorate the 47th anniversary of a student massacre in the South American country.

PressTV, October 3

According to Mexican officials, the Friday demonstration in the capital Mexico City turned violent when about 300 “anarchists” lobbed stones and firebombs at the police guarding the National Palace, which is home to the country’s President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Officials said police responded by firing tear gas, and that the violence lasted for around one hour.

The organizers of the rallies called for restraint from both sides.

In a similar protest in the southern city of Oaxaca, 52 masked youths were arrested for offenses, including vandalizing shops and banks, according to local authorities.

[…]

This year’s rallies drew more than 15,000 people in the capital alone.

Twitter: #2DeOctubreNoSeOlvida (Do Not Forget October 2nd).

US News & World Report: Thousands march in Mexico City to mark 1-year anniversary of 43 students’ disappearance
BBC: Thousands march to remember Mexico’s missing students

The Latest: Pope speaks of importance of poverty to church

AP, September 20

Havana — The latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States. All times local:

6:30 p.m.

Pope Francis has spoken off-the-cuff at length for the first time during his trip to Cuba, breaking from prepared remarks to deliver a sermon that focuses extensively on the importance of poverty to the Roman Catholic Church.

He also warns of the dangers of falling prey to the temptations of wealth.

In Francis’s word: “Our dear mother church is poor. God wants it poor, as he wanted our Holy Mother Mary to be poor.”

… Our dear mother church is poor??????????????? Maybe his holiness needs to take another look at the books.

El Salvador: Home of the world’s strictest anti-abortion law

The Globe & Mail, By Stephanie Nolen, September 18

San Salvador – It’s been nearly a year since Myrna Ramirez walked out of jail for the last time, but she still can’t quite believe she is free. She can’t believe, in fact, any of it: that she served nearly 13 years in jail for attempted murder, that she nearly bled to death in police custody, that she missed her daughter’s childhood – all because she went into premature labour at home one night, asked a neighbour for help, and that neighbour reported her to authorities for attempting to terminate a pregnancy.

She joined a prison wing full of women who ran afoul of El Salvador’s abortion law, perhaps the most restrictive in the world. “It’s like some kind of nightmare,” Ms. Ramirez says.

In 1998, after the civil war, El Salvador adopted a new law that outlawed abortion in all circumstances. Unlike the law it replaced, there are no exceptions for cases of rape, severe fetal abnormalities or threat to the mother’s life from pregnancy. Only six other countries in the world, all in Latin America and the Caribbean, have similarly prohibitive laws; in one, Chile, the President is pushing an easing of the law to allow abortion in some situations.

El Salvador, however, has the most active enforcement of its abortion law. Here authorities investigate and prosecute women whose pregnancies end before 40 weeks in what may be miscarriages or stillbirths or preterm labours, such as Ms. Ramirez’s. Judges have sentenced women convicted of terminating pregnancies to prison terms of up to 40 years.

Cuban migration to US rises amid historic thaw in relations

Fears grow that US will end ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy granting legal status to Cubans who reach Florida shores

Al Jazeera, By Ben Piven, August 14

The lines outside the former Swiss-supervised U.S. interests section in Havana were notoriously long for decades, with Cubans applying for a legal path to what they hoped would be a better life.

But since the U.S. diplomatic facility was formally upgraded to an embassy on July 20, the United States and Cuba are perhaps one step closer to modifying an immigration arrangement that affords Cubans special status — whether they arrive stateside legally or not.

Under the Cuban Adjustment Act’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy dating back to 1994 migration accords, any Cuban who reaches the U.S. is permitted to stay in the country.

Although U.S. officials say unique migration laws are not going to be scrapped, the Cuban government is calling for reforms to a policy they argue results in brain drain.

Meanwhile, increasing emigration rates during the last year suggest popular perceptions are that the U.S. will soon make it more difficult for new immigrants to be automatically recognized as political refugees.

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.