Tag Archive | "brazil"

Brazil: Nationwide Protests Call for Rousseff Ouster

Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

Protesters gather in the capital Brasilia calling to oust President Dilma Rousseff (Photo: Agencia Brasil)

On Sunday hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Brazilian cities — São Paulo, Rio de Janiero, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, among others — to protest against President Dilma Rousseff.

Estimates of the number of protesters vary wildly, with polling agency Datafolha saying 210,000 people gathered in Sao Paulo while the Military Police counted up to one million. The masses expressed their dissatisfaction with the government, corruption, and the deteriorating economic situation.

Many anti-government protesters carried signs with phrases along the lines of “PT out!”, which stands for Brazil’s ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores, and “Dilma out!”. Some even urged a “military intervention” to bring an premature end to Rousseff’s mandate.

O Globo noted that many protesters collectively sang the national anthem as they paraded the streets holding banners and Brazilian flags. Despite the crowd’s discontent, the protest was peaceful, without major incidents.

Brazil has experienced several waves of unrest in recent years, including an anti-government uprising sparked by a hike in public transport fares in 2013. The run up to the 2014 World Cup was also marked by several violent protests.

This time, a corruption scandal at Petrobras has stirred up fresh controversy. Brazil’s state-owned oil firm is suspected of channelling illicit funds to political parties, with dozens of high-level politicians being investigated for kickbacks.

In response to the protests, Brazil’s Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, held a press conference on national TV where he informed viewers that the administration would announce “a set of measures to combat corruption and impunity” in the days to come. They will then be sent to Congress for approval.

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On Now: Warld Cup

‘Warld Cup’ is a documentary photography project gathering images from more than 30 photographers from different latitudes to create a portrait of what was happening in Brazil on the fringes of the 2014 World Cup. After being shown in various spots in Rio de Janeiro, it is now open here in Buenos Aires, in the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación.

'Warld Cup' (Photo: Sebastián Gil Miranda)

‘Warld Cup’ (Photo: Sebastián Gil Miranda)

The exhibit narrates the social distinctions and contradictions of the tournament through well-chosen images that shun a tabloid aesthetic.

A woman kissing the image of [Brazil’s captain] Thiago Silva on the television in the settlement known as Copa do Povo in São Paulo. A group of indigenous men standing around a solitary tree opposite the Maracaná stadium. A person overcome with joy approaching a camera which is focusing on the security forces who are observing the scene. A man entering the only surviving house in a sea of rubble in front of a highway. These images come together in an exhibit whose name is formed through the fusion of “war” and “world”.

The idea for the collective project came from the meeting of French-Argentine Sebastián Gil Miranda, Brazilian Dinho Moreira, Elsa Brugière, and Thomas Belet (both French).

The title ‘Warld Cup’ was thought up by Sebastián Gil Miranda, a documentary photographer and sports fan who travelled to the World Cup with the idea of capturing the other reality of the event. He soon realised that he was not the only one: “The first days there I was meeting people that I thought were interesting, with interesting work, and one day, as I shared my project with some friends of friends, the idea came up of doing something collective. The next day we already had a logo, website, and a call out for entries.”

'Warld Cup'  (Photo: Colectivo Tem Morador)

‘Warld Cup’ (Photo: Colectivo Tem Morador)

The Two Sides of the Coin

The evictions of vulnerable communities, overpriced building projects, reports of corruption, tax benefits for FIFA and the World Cup sponsors, as well as laws designed according to their needs – all of these issues had an impact in the lead up to the tournament.

The social discontent in Brazil over the organisation of the World Cup had become public a year earlier, during the June 2013 Confederations Cup. The protests that began over the hike in public transport fares spread to include diverse problems and people, and combined with a violent police response, exposed the inequalities that hosting the World Cup in implies.

Beyond what he already knew, Gil Miranda was surprised by the almost constant contrast of celebration and police brutality: “Both the inauguration and the closing ceremony began with parties in the stadiums and a few blocks away protesters were being brutally suppressed. You were in two totally opposing worlds, a simultaneous party and a war, just a few blocks apart.”

Perhaps this is why the project quickly gathered momentum; in the end there was a wealth of material from which to select photos. That’s when the concept was fully defined: “We sought to tell the story [of the World Cup] from a much deeper, more subtle place, to search to find out what was really behind the incidents and not fall into sensationalism over the blood and violence,” says Gil Miranda.

Most of the photos are faithful to the goals of the project, even if not always the most aesthetically accomplished. The selection of photos transmits the contradictions between celebration and repression, the tension between poverty and business, traditions and progress, between the passion of the people and the show business of FIFA.

These contradictions were not exclusively felt by the Brazilians who suffered the collateral damage of the tournament. Gil Miranda felt it: “on the one hand I was working to show the other face of the World Cup, but then on the other hand Argentina kept progressing through the rounds and I ended up caught up on both sides.”

Warld Cup (Photo: Frederic Bernas)

Warld Cup (Photo: Frederick Bernas)


The most powerful photos are those that complement an underlying story. “The most interesting thing is to break down the story behind each image, such as in the photo of the woman kissing the television,” notes Gil Miranda. The photo was taken by Frederick Bernas in the Copa de Povo settlement, the new home to many of the families who were evicted to clear room for the São Paulo Arena in the Itaquerao neighbourhood.

Bernas himself notes: “These people had lost their homes for the World Cup, but when the game started they forgot about everything. The same woman who was shouting about FIFA, saying that they didn’t want any of this in Brazil, started to go crazy during the game. The level of intensity in this situation really surprised me.”

For his part, Bernas picks another example: “I think the photo of the boy playing while a line of police behind him are ready to act frames the tension that was running through society. But there were many good ones – seeing these photos in print is something really special and powerful.

The organisers promise to maintain the spirit of Warld Cup and continue the project in during the European Championships in France and the Olympic Games in Rio, both in 2016.

Warld Cup‘ is on at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación (Av. Corrientes 1543, 11-5077-8000) until 29th March. Entrance is free. 

Lead image: ‘Warld Cup’ by Felipe Paive, R.U.A. Foto Coletivo

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Brazil: Surfer Ricardo dos Santos Shot Dead by Policeman

Dos Santos and his girlfriend Karoline Esser (photo courtesy of Karoline Esser on Instagram)

Dos Santos and his girlfriend Karoline Esser (photo courtesy of Karoline Esser on Instagram)

Brazilian surfer Ricardo dos Santos was shot by an off-duty policeman outside his house on Monday, and died in hospital the following day.

Dos Santos, 24, is said to have approached two men who were in a car parked in front of his house in Guarda do Embau beach, near the southern city of Florianopolis. Versions differ as to whether he approached them to request they move the car or to ask them to stop taking drugs in public. According to witnesses, one of the men drew a gun and shot the surfer three times in his chest and abdomen.

Ricardinho, as he was known, was taken to São José hospital by helicopter. However, after four surgeries to repair a perforated lung and kidney, he died of his injuries.

The main suspect is an off-duty military police officer, who was in the car with his 17-year-old brother. Both men were arrested following the incident, however the brother was later released. The police officer, Luiz Paulo Mota Brentano, claims to have acted in self-defence.

The international surfing community has expressed shock and sadness at the news. Multiple world champion Kelly Slater called Ricardinho’s dead “a senseless loss of life” and added that “our small community has lost another way too soon”.

Current world champion, Brazilian Gabriel Medina, who was friends with Dos Santos, said on Instagram: “Ricardinho, you didn’t deserve this! Never! Why does this happen to good people? I don’t understand,” and called his friend “an example of a person” who was always helping others and smiling.

Billabong issued a statement in remembrance of “a team rider and dear friend, and an inspiration to all who knew him (…) When not traveling the globe in search of giant barrels, Ricardo spent time at home helping around the house and surfing with local groms. He was also a proud Brazilian who supported his local community.”

After a night-long wake, Dos Santos was buried in the Paulo Lopes cemetery in Santa Catarina today.

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Rousseff ‘Outraged’ After Indonesia Executes Brazilian National

Dilma Rousseff's personal appeals to the Indonesian government were dismissed. (photo: Presidency of Brazil)

Dilma Rousseff’s personal appeals to the Indonesian government were dismissed. (photo: Presidency of Brazil)

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Indonesia after a Brazilian national was executed for drug trafficking over the weekend.

Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira was among six people, including five foreigners, executed by firing squad just after midnight on Saturday (local time). Moreira, 53, was caught entering the country with more than 13kg of cocaine in 2003 and was sentenced to death a year later.

He is the first Brazilian national to be executed in a foreign country.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who had appealed for clemency from the Indonesian government on Friday, said she was “saddened and outraged” by the execution. “The use of the death penalty, increasingly condemned by the international community, will seriously affect the relationship between our two countries,” said Rousseff in an official statement.

The other foreigners executed on Sunday were from the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malawi, and Nigeria, and had all been convicted of drug-related crimes.

The Brazilian government said it would continue to appeal on behalf on another citizen, Rodrigo Gularte, who is also on death row in Indonesia and facing “imminent” execution.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his country would continue to enforce its strict drug laws. On Sunday, the leader wrote on his official Facebook page: “There is no room for half-measures in the war against the drugs mafia, because drugs destroy the lives of the users and their families.”


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Brazil: Dilma Rousseff Sworn In for Second Term

President Dilma Rousseff and her daughter, Paula, ride to the Congress building (photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

President Dilma Rousseff and her daughter, Paula, ride to the Congress building (photo: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was sworn in for a second term on 1st January. As is tradition, the president travelled in a Rolls Royce between Brasilia’s Ministries Esplanade and the Congress building, where she gave a speech.

In her inaugural address, Rousseff anticipated the need for a fiscal tightening in order to boost a deteriorating economy. However, she promised this would not affect the welfare programmes put in place by her previous administration and that of Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva.

“I know more than anyone that Brazil needs to start growing again,” said the president, whose first term ended with a GDP growth of 0.2%. “The first steps on this path are an adjustment in public expenditure, an increase in internal savings, the expansion of investment, and an increase in productivity. We will carry this out with the least possible sacrifice for the people, especially for those most in need.”

Though she did not give any details regarding specific measures, she said: “Yes, we will make adjustments to the economy, but we will do so without revoking the rights that we conquered or betraying our social commitments. I was reelected to continue changing Brazil and to make the changes you want. And I promise: I will make those changes.”

A turn in economic policy will be the task of newly appointed Economy Minister Joaquim Levy, an orthodox economist and banker nicknamed ‘Scissor Hands’, who has been rejected by the more leftist factions of the governing Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

Rousseff also took the time to go through her government’s main achievements, pointing out that Brazil is the seventh largest economy in the world, that inflation has remained below the 6.5% maximum target set by the Central Bank, and that the country has a stock of foreign currency reserves worth US$370bn.

The president did not omit to mention the ongoing Petrobras corruption scandal, stating that “we will defend Petrobras from its internal predators and its external enemies. We will rigourously investigate everything that was done wrong and create mechanisms to keep these things from happening again.”

In terms of foreign policy, Rousseff promised to prioritise “South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, which will mean strengthening Mercosur, Unasur, and Celac” as well as to “perfect the relationship with the US”, which was damaged after it was revealed that US intelligence agencies spied on electronic and telephone communications of millions of Brazilian citizens, including the president herself. The country’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Mauro Vieira, was the ambassador to Argentina until 2010, when it was appointed as ambassador to the US. Vieira is an expert in Latin American and regional integration issues.

Rousseff was reelected in October, after beating rival Aécio Neves in a tight second-round victory, and will complete her second term on 1st January 2019. The inauguration ceremony was attended by the presidents of Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as by the vice-presidents of China, the US, and Argentina (in representation of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was unable to travel due to a broken ankle) and delegations from 70 countries.

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Brazil: Indigenous Groups Clash with Police in Congress

Indigenous protesters clash with police in Brasilia (photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

The most recent protest is the latest in a series of confrontations between police and indigenous groups in Brasilia (photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)

Four men have been detained after a group of around 30 indigenous protestors clashed with police inside Brazil’s congress building in Brasilia.

The group were protesting a constitutional amendment on indigenous lands which had been proposed by Senator Katia Abreu, tipped to be Dilma Rousseff’s next agriculture minister.

Police officers used pepper spray and blocked access to a committee that was due to vote on the proposal. After a brief confrontation between them and the protestors, who were armed with bows and arrows, the session was called off.

The bill, known as PEC 215/00, would give the Brazilian Congress powers to demarcate the indigenous lands, changing the 1988 constitution which gave indigenous groups rights over their ancestral lands.

Indigenous leaders prefer the indigenous agency, Funai, to retain a prominent role in the demarcation of their ancestral lands, as they say wealthy landowners and loggers have too much power and influence in Congress.

Supporters of the amendment says Funai’s role in undemocratic.”The decisions on demarcations are taken by a lone anthropologist after hearing the indigenous groups. The National Congress, which is elected by the people, is not consulted,” Senator Abreu told Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper last year.

She noted that indigenous people account for only 1% of the Brazilian population but are entitled to 12% of the country’s territory.

Rousseff’s government has been criticised by both environmental and indigenous organisations for prioritising agricultural and economic development over indigenous rights and the fight against deforestation in the Amazon.


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Brazil: Truth Commission Presents Final Report on Dictatorship

An emotional Dilma Rousseff receives the CNV report on the Brazilian dictatorship (Photo: Lucio Bernardo Jr/Fotospúblicas.com)

An emotional Dilma Rousseff receives the CNV report on the Brazilian dictatorship (Photo: Lucio Bernardo Jr/Fotospúblicas.com)

Brazil’s National Truth Commission (CNV) has presented its final report on human rights abuses committed during the country’s 20th century military dictatorships.

In the first official investigation into the period 1946-1988 (with a special focus on the 1964-1985 military dictatorship), the CNV’s report runs more than 4,000 pages and is split into three volumes that detail the “systematic” human rights violations of the Brazilian state.

The report concludes that: “Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers.”

As a result, the CNV “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers.”

The third volume of the report is the most extensive, and deals with the victims of the period. It lists 434 people who were killed or disappeared – 210 of whom have never been found – by the state for political reasons. The CNV called this a “human tragedy that cannot be justified by any means.”

The report notes that the list is not exhaustive, as it only includes those cases that could be corroborated, a difficult task after the military said that many documents relating to the era had been destroyed.

Speaking to La Nación before the report was released, CNV coordinator Pedro Dallari acknowledged that there could have been as many as 8,350 indigenous victims, but that there was not sufficient information to verify identities or determine if they were killed in the context of political repression. Other persecuted groups not included entirely in the list of victims were union workers, homosexuals, academics, rural workers, and military personnel who advocated a return to democracy.


The report also identified 377 people considered directly responsible for the human rights violations of the period, including the five military generals that ruled as de facto leaders between 1964 and 1985. The list also includes over 100 civilians – mainly police officers – while the report further notes the complicit role of other actors in society, especially prominent business owners.

Due to the country’s 1979 Amnesty Law, no member of the armed forces has been charged with crimes committed during the dictatorship. In its list of recommendations, the CNV called for the judiciary to determine the legal responsibility of those involved in committing human rights violations that should not be covered by the amnesty.

It pointed to a 2010 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which stated that crimes against humanity were exempt from the 1979 law.

Director for Human Rights Watch Brazil, Maria Laura Canineu, said that “The commission has made a major contribution by providing an authoritative and long-overdue account of the horrible crimes that took place during the dictatorship. Just as important, it has pointed the way to the next crucial step that Brazil needs to take: making sure that those who committed atrocities are finally brought to justice.”

President Dilma Rousseff, who was herself kidnapped and tortured during the dictatorship, broke into tears as she spoke after receiving the report. She said it would encourage the country to find a “national reconciliation” with its past, but she did not mention any judicial action resulting from the investigation.

Acknowledging that it was released on the International Day of Human Rights, Rousseff added that the report was “a tribute to all the men and women of the world who have fought for democracy and helped make humanity better.”

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Rousseff Wins Narrow Re-election: What Next for Brazil and Latin America?

Yesterday, Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) obtained its fourth consecutive presidential victory, and its candidate, Dilma Rousseff, her second. Rousseff beat the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira’s (PSDB) candidate Aécio Neves by 51.64% to 48,36%.

By the time Rousseff’s new term —which will begin with the new year— ends in 2019, the PT will have been in power for a massive 16 years, a record in Brazil’s democratic history.

However, so many years in power come at a cost, and the second-round victory that many celebrated with great relief was almost too close for comfort for Rousseff’s supporters.

Dilma Rousseff celebrates yesterday's narrow re-election (Photo via official Dilma Rousseff  Facebook page)

Dilma Rousseff celebrates yesterday’s narrow re-election (Photo via official Dilma Rousseff Facebook page)

The Campaign

Yesterday’s election was the culmination of a tense, at times aggressive campaign. Rousseff herself admitted it had some “sorry moments”, and Neves complained about the way the president treated him and the other candidates, calling it “a sad page in the history of Brazilian democracy.”

It had its heart-stopping moments as well, such as the death of the Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB) candidate Eduardo Campos, which propelled environmentalist Marina Silva to the race. For a moment, it seemed like Silva could comfortably surpass Neves, and even come head to head with Rousseff herself. Finally, “Hurricane Marina” proved to be little more than a tropical storm, as she finished third with 21.3% of the vote.

Many wondered then how much of the result was due to Silva’s own ineptitude and inability to hang on to voters’ preferences, and how much of the original stir around her was all the media’s making. Indeed, the media played an important role in the campaign, generally to the detriment of the PT candidate.

The enmity between the government and the country’s big media is legendary, and began with Lula Da Silva’s first term. This time, after unsuccessfully propping up Silva for the first round, they went all out in trying to stop Rousseff’s second-round victory. The most striking example of this is probably that of weekly magazine Veja, which changed its publication date last week, from Saturday, when it normally comes out, to Friday, in order to cause a greater electoral impact. The cover had Rousseff and Lula Da Silva implicated in a corruption scandal involving state oil company Petrobras, under the headline “The knew all about it”.

In the end, the vote was split along pretty clear social and geographic lines. This can be seen in the vote distribution across the country: overwhelmingly, the poor north and north-east voted for the PT, whilst the wealthier south (including Brazil’s largest city and financial capital, São Paulo) favoured the PSDB.

Facing the Opposition

After such a tough campaign and close victory, Rousseff opened her victory speech by making a call for “peace and unity”. She acknowledged that whilst the majority of Brazilians voted for continuity, they also demand changes. “Sometimes in history, close results have produced deeper and quicker changes than landslide victories,” she affirmed.

To be able to carry out these changes, however, Rousseff will have to deal with an increasingly fragmented Congress. Whilst the government still holds a majority of the 513 seats in the lower house, both the PT and its main ally, the centrist Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB) lost seats in this election. Its main contenders, the PSDB and the PSB, both improved their performance in the legislative election, which coincided with the first round of the presidential election. The number of parties represented in the lower house rose from 22 to 28.

“The increase in the number of parties makes political negotiations more complex, especially for the president,” explained an article published in Senate’s website after the first round.

The government’s parliamentary majority is based on an alliance between ten parties, which makes negotiations a necessity. The alliance with the PMDB (which holds the largest number of seats in the Senate) is clearly pragmatic, as they tend to support whoever is in power in exchange for political posts. Their behaviour is, then, potentially unpredictable, especially in the face of a somewhat weaker government.

In the traditionally fragmented landscape of Brazilian politics, Rousseff will also have to deal with a clear opposition leader in Neves —who has came out stronger after the election— and a divided and demobilised PT. Within the next four years, the party will also need to choose a successor for Rousseff, who cannot run for a third term. Ever-popular Lula, who always seemed like the obvious choice, will be 73 in 2019, and it is not certain he will be up for the top job anymore.

A divided Brazil (red state voted for Rousseff, blue states voted in favour of Neves)

A divided Brazil (red states voted for Rousseff, blue states voted in favour of Neves)

Challenges Ahead

Rousseff’s most urgent and pressing challenge is to inject some life back into the Brazilian economy, which entered a technical recession in the first half of 2014. Rousseff’s other major victory pledge was a comprehensive political reform –to be eventually voted on via a public referendum– and renewed measures to stamp out impunity and corruption.

She is up against a highly distrustful investor market, with the Bovespa stock market and Brazilian real plunging after Rousseff’s re-election was confirmed. And she will come under pressure to reform in the country’s major financial centre, São Paulo, and its south-westerly agricultural heartlands, which voted strongly in favour of Neves.

In her victory speech, Rousseff pledged to restore economic growth and, particularly, to develop the industrial sector. She also promised to keep inflation in check and govern with fiscal responsibility, two key areas of criticism during the campaign. However, efforts to appeal to the pro-business sectors and to private investors could also create rifts within her traditional support base and even within the ranks of the PT; furthermore, these efforts will have to be carried out facing the more hostile legislative branch.

A Regional Look

Rousseff’s re-election, alongside a comprehensive first-round victory for the Frente Amplio (FA) in Uruguay, was seen as further consolidating the so-called ‘pink tide’ of leftist forces that have governed much of Latin America over the last decade. Yesterday’s results come on the back of a landslide triumph for Evo Morales in Bolivia earlier this month, while leftist leaders were re-elected or voted in last year in Ecuador (Rafael Correa), Venezuela (Nicolás Maduro), and Chile (Michelle Bachelet).

The leftist presidents of Mercosur in 2013 (Foto: Analía Garelli/enviada especial/Télam/lz)

The leftist presidents of Mercosur in 2013 (Foto: Analía Garelli/enviada especial/Télam/lz)

Soon after the result was announced last night, Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner publicly congratulated Rousseff, calling her re-election a “great victory for social inclusion and regional integration.” Certainly, the support to the status quo in so many states –and now in the local powerhouse Brazil– will reinforce recent efforts to create a more cohesive region and reduce traditional US influence in the south via institutions such as Mercosur, Unasur, and CELAC —something the PSDB had openly challenged.

Ecuador’s Correa celebrated the regional dynamic too, exclaiming on Twitter that “Our America will never be the same again!” Correa was referring to the recurring victories for leftist parties, yet his view is arguably even more pertinent in terms of the opposition and how it has evolved over the last decade.

Candidates such as Henrique Capriles in Venezuela and Neves in Brazil, both of whom came within a whisker of victory in pivotal Latin American states, have emerged as the new faces leading a more moderate centre-right challenge. Though with personal ties to the ‘old establishment’, their campaigns shied away from references to the neo-liberal policies of the ’80s and ’90s, and both promised to maintain flagship social welfare programmes introduced by their rivals. The driving message of these new opposition campaigns was a hard-line stance on tackling corruption and crime combined with a softer approach to economic reform, complete with assurances that recent gains in social equality would not be reversed.

Maduro and Rousseff survived these new challenges, just, thanks to strong support in areas that have most benefitted from the renewed emphasis on wealth distribution. But Luis Lacalle Pou remains hopeful of causing an upset in Uruguay’s presidential run-off on 30th November, while Sergio Massa and Mauricio Macri are both strong contenders to end 12 years of rule by Fernández’s Frente Para la Victoria party at Argentina’s general election in October 2015.

As political journalist Pablo Stefanoni concluded in a recent article for Le Monde Diplomatique, the future of the Latin American left will be determined in large part by its “ability to prevent the post-modern right –with its new faces, a renewed discourse, and younger candidates better trained to tread the post-neoliberal campaign path paved by the leftist parties- from commandeering the vehicle of change.”

Rousseff has already promised widespread political and economic reforms, saying she was ready to make the changes that a divided society has demanded. Whether this sort of adaptation, which seems to imply a shift towards the political middle ground, will be echoed around the region remains to be seen.

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Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Increased 290% in September

The charred remains of burned forest on Awá land, only kilometres from an Awá community. Photo © Survival

The charred remains of burned forest in Maranhão state, close to an indigenous community. Photo © Survival

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon showed a 290% rise in September compared to the same month last year. According to figures released by Brazilian NGO Imazon, 402km2 were cleared last month, compared to 103km2 during the September 2013.

The worst affected areas were the states of Rondonia, which accounted for 33% of the total, Pará (23%), Mato Grosso (18%), and Amazonas (12%).

In addition to the areas cleared, a further 624km2 were “degraded” during September 2014, showing a slight rise (3.8%) on last year’s figures.

The figures published by Imazon are independent figures – the government has postponed the release of official figures until after Sunday’s presidential run-off, in which incumbent Dilma Rousseff faces a strong challenge from Aécio Neves, a pro-business candidate who has the endorsement of Marina Silva, the popular former environment minister who herself came third in the first round of elections on 5th October.

However, the official numbers are expected to confirm the Imazon’s statistics, entrenching a reversal that started last year, when deforestation rose by 29% after eight years of progress in tackling the clearing.

Among the reasons for the setback are a shift in government priorities. Under Rousseff, the government has put a lower priority on the environment and built alliances with powerful agribusiness groups. It has weakened the Forest Code and pushed ahead with dam construction in the Amazon.

The environment ministry has tried to step up monitoring operations and campaigns to catch major violators, but farmers and loggers have also become more sophisticated by clearing small areas of fewer than 25 hectares, which are harder to detect on the government’s satellite.

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The Indy Guide to October’s Elections in South America

October is set to be a decisive month in South American politics, with more than 150m people in Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay set to cast their vote in presidential and legislative elections. While the vote is something of a formality for the supremely popular Bolivian leader Evo Morales, the contests in Brazil and Uruguay are set to be decided in tight, second round run-offs.

Here we provide a quick guide to the elections in each country, including a look at the key candidates and campaign issues.


BRAZIL: 5th October

What: General Elections to choose president, national congress, state governors, and state legislatures.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in presidential and gubernatorial races, a run-off will be held on 26th October.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 1st January 2015, members of congress on 1st February 2015.

South America’s largest country goes to the polls amid an economic downturn that has sparked growing criticism of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, now seeking a second term. Rousseff remains favourite, but renewed competition from environmentalist Marina Silva could lead to a tense run-off at the end of the month.


640px-Dilma_Rousseff_-_foto_oficial_2011-01-09Dilma Rousseff, Worker’s Party (PT)
VP: Michel Temer (PMDB)
Coalition: With the strength of the people
Current ranking in the polls: 38%

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff, 66, Brazil’s first female president, is running for re-election. Rousseff became a socialist during her youth and under the military dictatorship she was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972, and was reportedly tortured. She was one of the founders of the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and worked her way up the ranks to become state Energy Secretary. In 2000, after an internal PDT dispute, Rousseff deflected to the Worker’s Party (PT). In 2002, Rousseff joined the committee responsible for the energy policy of presidential candidate Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, who, after winning the election, invited her to become Energy Minister. In 2005 she became Lula’s Chief of Staff, a post she held until 2010 when she resigned to run for president, winning in the second round.

Rousseff has continued many of Lula’s social policies, and until mid-2013 had popularity ratings equal to that of her predecessor, regularly topping 80%. However, in June last year things changed when over a million people took to the streets to vent anger at the escalating prices of public services and corruption among politicians, as well as what was seen to be excessive spending on the stadiums for this year’s football World Cup.

Under Rousseff the country’s growth has slowed down, largely due to the impacts of the global economic downturn, but also, according to some analysts, due to policies that her administration has implemented, and her “economic micromanaging”. Brazil is currently in a recession, although unemployment remains historically low at 4.9% and household incomes have managed to keep up with the high inflation. However, it is thought that were Rousseff to win re-election she would not encourage confidence in foreign investors, which could affect the country’s long-term growth.

Marina_Silva2010Marina Silva, Brazilian Socialist Part (PSB)
VP: Beto Albuquerque (PSB)
Coalition: United for Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 29%

Marina Silva, 56, only officially became the PSB candidate six weeks ago, after the original PSB candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in Santos on 13th August and Silva, who had been Campos’ running mate, was chosen to succeed him.

Silva is as known for her background as an environmentalist as she is a politician. Growing up in the Brazilian Amazon, Silva comes from humble origins, and only learned to read and write at the age of 16. She was a colleague of activist Chico Mendes, who was killed for defending the rainforest in 1988, around the time Silva became a member of the Worker’s Party (PT), a membership she continued until 2009. She served as former president Lula’s Environment Minister from 2003, but frequently clashed with then Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, and resigned in 2008. In 2010 Silva ran for president as a Green Party candidate, obtaining 19.4% of the votes, the highest ever figure for a Green Party candidate, far exceeding expectations. In 2013, she attempted to create new party Sustainability Network, but after failing to gather the required number of signatures to create the party, she changed her affiliation to the PSB. In April, Campos named her as his running mate.

The PSB is traditionally a centrist party with market sympathies, and Silva had to work hard when inheriting the ticket to convince the party’s traditional base that she wasn’t a radical reformist. She has outlined a market-friendly plan that both businesses on the ground in Brazil as well as foreign investors believe will spur productivity and encourage investment, both of which have tailed off under Rousseff. Silva has also said she would reinstate fuel tax and allow more fluctuation in prices of things that are currently regulated. She would also give the central bank more independence, and her policies underscore an ideology of fiscal rectitude, tax reform, and more robust inflation-targeting. Socially, Silvia is seen to be conservative – due to her religious faith, she retracted Campos’ support for gay marriage, although her campaign has since come out to say she is a supporter of LGBT rights and human rights in general. Her posture has led Rousseff to claim she is continually switching sides and affiliations, something which could prove to be her Achilles’ heel.

Aécio_Neves_2014-02-20Aécio Neves, Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
VP: Aloysio Nunes
Coalition: Change, Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 18%

Economist and politician, Aécio Neves, 54, is currently a senator representing Minas Gerais state. Since entering politics in the 1980s, he has only been defeated once, when he ran for mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1992. He was elected four times to Brazil’s lower house between 1987 and 2002, before becoming governor of Minas Gerais from 2003-2010, the first to be elected outright in the first round and also the youngest in the state’s history. As governor, Neves introduced the “Management Shock”: a set of sweeping reforms designed to bring the state budget under control by reducing government expenditure and promoting investment.

Neves, a centre-right candidate, is the market’s favourite, and a win would bring back into power the party that Lula’s Worker’s Party beat in 2002, and which has remained in the wings for the past 12 years.


BOLIVIA: 12th October


What: General Elections to choose president, vice-president, renew 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 36 in the Senate. There will also be seven new ‘special’ seats for indigenous leaders in the lower house.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote – or at least 40% and a 10 percentage point lead over the nearest rival – in presidential race, a run-off will be held on 7th December.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 22nd January 2015.

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina


Evo Morales (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS-IPSP)
VP: Álvaro García Linera
Current support in opinion polls: 52-55%

Incumbent Evo Morales, 54, is expected to win another landslide election – his third – in the first round. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a former cocalero in power now since 2006, has managed to combine a socio-economic revolution with relative political stability, and fervent anti-capitalist rhetoric with pragmatic macroeconomic management. The results are impressive: The nationalisation of key energy, mining, and communication sectors would normally draw the ire of neo-liberal observers, but even the IMF has praised a track record of strong growth, moderate inflation, low debt, and balanced budgets. At home, his approval ratings hover around the 70% mark. At the heart of the model is the indigenous concept of Suma Qamaña (good living), the idea that community bonds and living in harmony with la Pachamama (Mother Earth) are just as important for well-being as an increase in income.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for Morales. While enjoying huge support among the country’s majority indigenous population, he has faced regular challenges by opposition in the economic wealth province of Santa Cruz. Morales says this unrest is deliberately provoked by the local business elite and supported by the US embassy, which last year he threatened to shut down after his presidential plane was rerouted and grounded by European authorities who accused him of smuggling Edward Snowdon out of Russia. However, he also faced a major crisis in 2010 after raising the price of state-subsidised gas, a decision he eventually reversed after a week of widespread protests (the ‘gasolinazo’). Meanwhile, the plan to construct a major international highway running through the TIPNIS indigenous territory sparked major protests in 2012 and created some divisions within the party’s support base.

Other challenges remain if he is elected, as expected, for his third term. Poverty levels have fallen by around a third since 2005, but at around 40% are still high in regional terms. After easing some of the country’s worst economic ills, the long-term future will require greater industrialisation and diversification to reduce the heavy dependence on primary exports from extracting oil, gas, and minerals. Finally, the government is facing growing pressure to tackle social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, which are both prohibited.

Samuel Doria Medina (Frente de Unidad Nacional, FUN)
VP: Ernesto Suárez
Coalition: Concertación Unidad Demócrata (FUN+MDS)
Current support in opinion polls: 14-17%

The business magnate will run against Morales for the third time. In 2005 and 2009 he came third with less than 8% of the vote, though opinion polls this time rank him as a comfortable second. Despite being involve in politics for more than 20 years, Doria Medina is still better known for his business exploits. Since 1987 he has been the president and main shareholder of the Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (SOBOCE), one of the largest companies in the country, while his portfolio has expanded to include the local franchise of fast food outlets such as Burger King and Subway.

Doria Medina says he offers an alternative to Morales’ authoritarian style and unsustainable economic model, proposing more market-friendly policies including providing foreign investors with a greater share of Bolivia’s oil wealth in return for an injection of capital. He also calls for more investment in renewable energies, technology, and services, which he claims this will provide more jobs and help reduce crime. However, Doria Medina he has failed to unite the opposition – which includes ex-president Jorge Quiroga (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) and leftist challenger Juan del Granado, of the Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM) – behind his cause.


URUGUAY: 26th October

What: General election to choose president, vice-president, and complete renewal of both legislative houses in the General Assembly.
Run-off: If no presidential candidate achieves an absolute majority in the first round, a run-off will be held on 30th November.
Term: New president and legislators will be sworn in on 1st March 2015.

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry  (Photos via Wikipedia)

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry (Photos via Wikipedia)

José “Pepe” Mujica has won the hearts and minds of the global media as “the world’s poorest president” who legalised marijuana, but he is forbidden by the constitution for seeking re-election. His predecessor and Frente Amplio colleague Tabaré Vázquez is currently favourite to return for his second term, though latest polls suggest a second round run-off is likely and could be a close call. Education reform and crime are two of the key campaign issues.


Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio, FA)
VP: Raúl Sendic
Support: 40-43%

Oncologist Tabaré Vázquez, president between 2005 and 2010, is looking to secure another five-year term at the age of 74. The country’s situation has changed significantly since he first came to power a decade ago: poverty has fallen from around 40% to just over 10%, while unemployment is at historic lows. The country has also become one of the world’s most socially progressive after decriminalising abortion, legalising same sex marriage, and regulating the market for legal marijuana.

Vázquez says a third successive Frente Amplio government would be “committed to improving even further the life of every Uruguayan citizen” by consolidating these social and economic advances and tackling problematic areas. One of his key electoral promises is to increase education spending to 6% of GDP (from around 4.5% currently), another the introduction of a Nordic-style ‘national care system’ to increase state support for families with dependants (infants, disabled or elderly relatives).

If triumphant, however, Vázquez will face a challenge to keep the more radical leftist factions of the Frente Amplio coalition in line, especially if a weak parliamentary majority or direct minority results in new concessions to a rejuvenated centre-right opposition (he has already made overtones about reaching “broad agreements”).

Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional, PN)
VP: Jorge Larrañaga
Support: 29-33%

Son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), 41-year-old Luis Lacalle Pou was a surprise winner in the primaries, something that is considered an advantage for the main event as his rivals were preparing to face a different candidate (Jorge Larrañaga, who has since become Lacalle Pou’s running mate). His campaign has sought to play up his image as a fresh and youthful alternative to Vázquez, and he has promised a renewal of politics with “action, not reaction”, preferring to talk about policy management rather than ideological concerns.

Lacalle Pou has said that education, security, and infrastructure were three “emergencies” that his administration would treat.

Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado, PC)
VP: Germán Coutinho
Support: 11-15%

Another son of an ex-president, though this time former dictator Juan María, Bordaberry represents the country’s traditional right-wing Colorados. Bordaberry has promised deep education reform, including a guarantee for a 200-day school year and decentralising decision-making. He has also put security at the heart of his camping, pledging to reverse the legalisation of marijuana, lower the age of criminal responsibility for serious crimes, and use the military to support police operations.

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