Good clips Latin America news

Latin America Archive

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Cover-Up Found in Honduras Prison Killings: After the shooting and the screaming and the smoke faded away, the guardians of state security scrambled to write the story of how 68 people were killed inside the prison walls here on April 5. They said 59 of the dead were vicious gang members who shot other prisoners, then barricaded themselves inside two cellblocks and set a suicidal fire, killing innocent victims in the process, as the police arrived to restore order.
   But that first draft of history is now crumbling into dust. What happened at El Porvenir, according to an independent report commissioned by the president of Honduras, was in fact among the worst prison massacres of this sort in many years. A draft copy of the report, which is to be sent to President Ricardo Maduro this week, says 51 of the dead were executed -- shot, stabbed, beaten or burned to death by a force of the state police, soldiers, prison guards and prisoners working with the guards. All were members of the Mara 18, a feared youth gang.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Powell, State differ on '73 coup -- The Washington Times: "It is not a part of American history that we're proud of," Mr. Powell said, quickly adding that reforms instituted since then make it unlikely that the policies of that time will be repeated.
   ... In a highly unusual move, the State Department issued a statement that put distance between the department and its top official. The statement asserted that the U.S. government "did not instigate the coup that ended Allende's government in 1973."
     Mr. Rogers was concerned that Mr. Powell's comment was reinforcing what he called "the legend" that the Chile coup was a creation of a Kissinger-led cabal working in league with Chilean military officers opposed to then-President Salvador Allende.
     Mr. Rogers called the department legal office to point out that there was a pending lawsuit against the government involving the episode, and Mr. Powell's comment was not helpful.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Chile Sect Thrives Despite Criminal Charges: "The group's reclusive leader is accused of sexually abusing scores of young boys. Former political prisoners say they were imprisoned and tortured in underground dungeons in the group's compound. An American who disappeared on a hiking vacation is reported to have been executed there. More than 50 other charges are pending against the group and its leaders, ranging from kidnapping and forced labor to fraud and tax evasion. Yet the paramilitary religious sect known as Colonia Dignidad continues to flourish here in a 70-square-mile enclave in the Andean foothills that remains, in the words of a recent Chilean congressional report, a heavily armed "state within a state....
  "web of protection" supplied by sympathetic military and police officials nurtured by the group's leaders during the long dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet... those allies still hold powerful positions. 
  Colonia Dignidad has managed to fight... "a guerrilla war in the courts"
  "They easily control properties and enterprises worth more than $100 million through their various holding companies... They are involved in real estate, mining, commerce and agriculture, just like any of several better-known business conglomerates in this country."

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Lawsuit Says Del Monte Sale Was Rigged: "A lawsuit filed in a Miami court yesterday by seven private and corporate minority investors includes allegations that may shed light on why Del Monte was sold for so much less than it seemed to be worth. The suit accuses Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh and his company, the IAT Group, of bribing Eduardo R. Bours, a powerful Mexican politician who was chairman of the investment group and an important member of the country's ruling party, to rig the sale in their favor."

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

NAFTA to Open Foodgates, Engulfing Rural Mexico: "on Jan. 1 tariffs on almost all agricultural imports from the United States will end. The looming deadline has consumed the attention of a nation where a quarter of the population lives in rural areas, and produced warnings about the possibility of unrest and increased migration across the Mexican countryside and into the United States, as millions of peasants are forced to abandon their tiny fields. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers and their supporters have blocked highways and border crossings. They have temporarily shut down gas and electricity installations, and even burst into Congress on horseback."

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

The Next Africa?: "Until now, the only part of the world to suffer a sustained drop in incomes has been Africa. But South America and Central America now risk becoming another Africa, in the sense of institutionalized Western neglect and indigenous despair, of tumbling living standards, of coups and civil war and failed states. If we allow this to happen, we Yanquis will pay the price -- in terms of economics, drugs and immigration -- for years to come. "

Monday, December 09, 2002

Growing Poverty Is Shrinking Mexico's Rain Forest: "Five miles up a muddy trail from Emiliano Zapata, in southeastern Chiapas State, is Mexico's largest unpolluted lake, Laguna Miramar, and beyond that stands the last rain forest in Mexico. But today almost half a million poor people, speaking six different languages, live in that dying forest. For some here in Chiapas, the issue is turning from saving the trees to saving the people. A century of government reaching into this most remote corner of Mexico has left most citizens with next to nothing. "

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Three Reagan-Era Hard-Liners Return to Help Run Bush's Foreign Policy Team: "They were key figures in the Iran-Contra scandal and U.S.-backed "dirty wars" in Central America in the 1980s. Now Otto Reich, Elliot Abrams and John Negroponte are back, helping run White House policy toward Latin America. The re-emergence of the three has caused consternation among human rights activists and some regional experts, who fear President George W. Bush's team is taking the country back to Cold War days, when the United States intervened flagrantly in Latin America by supporting coups, bankrolling dictatorships that suppressed leftists, and training soldiers linked to human rights abuses. "

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Jet Purchase Splits Brazil: New Leader Wants Voice: "feelings are running high over what is perceived here as Pentagon meddling to prevent Embraer, the country's largest exporter, from selling planes to Colombia. Last month, the Colombian Defense Ministry invited Embraer to tender an offer for the purchase of 40 of its Super Tucano light attack aircraft, a $234 million deal. Almost immediately, however, Gen. James T. Hill, head of the United States Southern Command, sent a letter to the Colombian authorities warning that if they went ahead with that plan it might "negatively influence" Congressional approval of future military aid to Colombia. "I recommend the Colombian Air Force spend this money on more pressing requirements, such as modernizing its C-130 fleet," General Hill wrote. The C-130 is of American manufacture"

Mexico's Amber Miners Find Risk, Not Riches: "The difference between suffering and sustenance lies in finding amber. A week's work might produce a quarter-ounce -- for which a miner will be paid as little as $2.50 on top of his regular earnings. A pendant or earrings made from that much amber may sell for $100 or more in the tourist shops of the nearest city, San Cristóbal de las Casas, which lies a hard morning's drive away. The price can double if a piece reaches New York City or Los Angeles. But the miners never see the money from the markup. Fifteen years ago, the miners here tried to form a collective, pooling their money and labor. They accumulated a cache of nearly 900 pounds of amber, and planned to set up their own store. But bandits stole the whole load, and the cooperative collapsed in bitterness."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Ford Motor Is Linked to Argentina's 'Dirty War': "a federal prosecutor here filed a criminal complaint against Ford Argentina this month and ordered an investigation into the company's conduct under the junta that ruled this country. It charges that Ford and its senior executives "managed, participated in or covered up the illegal detention" of Mr. Troiani and nearly two dozen other employees. ...  Over the next year, he says, he was repeatedly beaten, tortured and deprived of sleep and food. The case is an outgrowth of similar charges made against Mercedes-Benz, today a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. A total of 16 workers at its plant in a suburb of Buenos Aires were abducted either at home or on the job from 1976 to 1977. All but two are assumed to have been killed. "

Saturday, November 23, 2002

'Rebel Colonel,' Ecuador Favorite, Adopts Capitalist Look: "Lucio Gutiérrez sounds every bit the button-down capitalist who by nearly every measure appears poised to win the presidency in an election this Sunday. Forget that just three years ago he was a rebellious army colonel who led a revolt that toppled this country's president, drawing comparisons with another former coup plotter, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez. Or that, like Mr. Chávez, he burst onto the political stage by railing against market reforms and the corruption of traditional parties. Mr. Gutiérrez, in an interview, was having none of it. He promised to create jobs with economic reforms and foreign investment, pay Ecuador's debt, negotiate a deal with the International Monetary Fund, and allow the American military to continue using its air base here. "

South American Trading Bloc Frees Movement of Its People: " In an important step toward regional integration, the six member nations of the South American common market have approved a plan that will allow their 250 million people to live and work in any other member country and be granted the same rights as the citizens of those nations... Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay were the founders and are full members of the common market, known as Mercosur, which with a combined gross product of more than $1 trillion is the world's third-largest trade group. Bolivia and Chile joined later and are associate members."

As Andean Glaciers Shrink, Water Worries Grow: "In a phenomenon scientists here and abroad call a calamity in the making, the glaciers of the central Andes are vanishing because of global warming driven at least in part by pollution. Their disappearance, scientists now say, is nearly unavoidable and could lead to water shortages in places like Bolivia and Peru that depend on glaciers and the rain and snow that fall on the mountains for water for drinking, irrigating fields and generating electricity... Scientists say that without the glaciers the region's natural water cycle will be disrupted. Glaciers release water in dry seasons and collect it in rainy ones. "It's a natural dam," said Lonnie Thompson, a research scientist at the Byrd Center who has studied Andean glaciers closely. "Some people refer to these glaciers as the world's water towers, and once they're dry, you lose that water."

The New York Review of Books: Brazil: Lula's Prospects: "For a country of its size and importance, Brazil has little support in the US Congress. Nor do the US press and television take much interest in it. News from Brazil is mainly about samba, sex, and soccer, and economic reporting is confined to the financial pages. It is time Washington realized that loose talk in the Treasury, hysteria on Wall Street, and foolish fears about a new axis of evil can hurt US interests. Brazil's election must be seen against the backdrop of the Argentine crisis, the imminent possibility of a bloody coup in Venezuela, and the escalating conflict in Colombia. If Brazil fails, as it could, this will have major implications not only for the international financial system but for the prospects of democracy in the region. How ironic that while the United States is now talking about how to "build" a democracy after a war in Iraq, it risks, by inattention and misplaced priorities, aggravating the problems that could undermine the largest and most successful democracy in what it likes to think of as its own "neighborhood.""

Monday, November 11, 2002

Report Criticizes Colombia on Militias: "new report by Human Rights Watch asserts that Colombia's attorney general has undermined investigations of right-wing paramilitary groups by firing or transferring prosecutors, particularly those working on cases in which military officers were believed to have assisted the groups in mass killings or assassinations."

Friday, November 01, 2002

The New York Review of Books: Love in a Time of Revolution: review By Stephen Kinzer of The Country Under My Skin: A Memory of Love and War by Gioconda Belli. "Belli has written the first literary memoir by a Sandinista woman. It tells two stories. One is about a rich girl in a poor country who was carried away by political and physical passion. The other is an account of what went on behind the public façade of the Sandinista regime. They merge easily. Belli's progress through her various love affairs mirrors Nicaragua's history during the same period. "

Friday, July 26, 2002

The Most Important Election of 2002?: "the most important election this fall for progressives, for those who worry about the growing divide between rich and poor, for those who oppose unfettered corporate trade, is the October 6 presidential election in Brazil. The current front-runner is "Lula," Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the head of the Workers Party in Brazil (the PT) and the former head of the Metalworkers Union. Lula has run for president three times before; he has even been ahead in the polls before; but each time, he was defeated by the opposition's money, personal smears, scare tactics and the open blackmail of international banking, which, in effect, says to Brazil, If you elect Lula, we'll pull your loans, downgrade your credit ratings and throw your economy into turmoil.... What should the progressive community be doing? "

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Argentina Charges Ex-Dictator and Others in 'Dirty War' Deaths: "An investigative judge today ordered the arrest of Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, Argentina's former military dictator, and more than 30 other military officers on charges that they abused human rights during the "dirty war" against leftists here more than 20 years ago. The officers, most of them retired, are accused of ordering or taking part in the kidnapping, torture and execution of more than 20 members of the left-wing Montonero guerrillas. The remains of the victims, like many of the estimated 30,000 others who disappeared during seven years of brutal military rule, were never recovered."

U.S. Law Imperils Colombia Coca Spraying: "Even as the Bush administration is trying to increase the aerial spraying of drug crops in Colombia with herbicides, an American law enacted in January threatens to disrupt the strategy and possibly even halt it. A little-noticed provision in the $15.4 billion spending measure for government operations abroad requires that the American-backed program to eradicate coca crops in Colombia must meet the same health and safety standards that would apply if the herbicides were being sprayed in the United States."

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Aid for [Mexican] Farmers Helps Butterflies Too: "Working in eight different poor, rural communities around the butterfly's roosting grounds and with nearly no talk of monarchs, Alternare is succeeding by providing villagers with knowledge they actually want. The group is teaching farmers how to build a house of longer-lasting adobe using one tree rather than a faster-decomposing home that requires 25, how to farm without chemical fertilizers and how to keep this rugged land productive so farmers need not continually move to newly logged territory. While improving the farmers' lives, Alternare, by no coincidence, is improving the situation of the butterflies as well."

Harsh Spotlight Shines on Mexico's Army: "Without a foreign foe, its 183,000 uniformed men fight the enemy within: big criminal cartels and small bands of rural guerrillas. Its role in the campaign against drug traffickers, who once corrupted generals with bribes, has been a smashing success of late. But two decades after the "dirty war" ended, its battles against its real and imagined enemies -- in particular, supposed guerrilla sympathizers among the rural poor -- have continually been marked by abuses including rape, torture and killing. Those crimes, judged by secret military trials, often go unpunished. President Fox's promises to make the military more accountable to civilian powers remain unfulfilled."

Monday, July 08, 2002

Mexico Secrets: Envelope Holds Ghosts of 70's: "A sealed envelope in the hands of President Vicente Fox holds the names of 74 former government officials who may bear responsibility for torturing and killing hundreds of leftists in Mexico.... at least 275 people, perhaps twice that number, died after they were illegally detained during a never-acknowledged "dirty war" fought by Mexico's government from the late 1960's into the early 1980's, according to the government's own human rights commission."

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Skepticism Greets Leftist's Makeover in Brazil: "Whether Mr. da Silva's ideology has also changed is a more complicated matter. He has roiled markets here and abroad as he battles to maintain his current front-runner status until Oct. 6, when the first round of the election will be held. In recent weeks, the Brazilian currency, the real, has hit one record low after another and the stock market has dived, driven by fears that Mr. da Silva and his party are still firebrand revolutionaries at heart and will govern that way if he becomes president of Latin America's largest country. A runoff is set for Oct. 27 if no candidate wins a majority on the first ballot. Mr. da Silva, who is universally known here as Lula, says his socialist views have "evolved and mellowed." But foreign investors and the Brazilian middle class, whose votes he needs to win, continue to wonder whether his makeover is only cosmetic. The candidate has responded by condemning the market speculation, which he calls "economic terrorism," even as he tries to reassure doubters."

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

An American's Death, Guatemala's Blunders: "two and a half years after the death of Mr. Lee, a 41-year-old journalist, and despite increasing pressure from the United States, his family in Missouri still has no idea who killed him. Guatemalan investigators barely pressed the inquiry, overlooking important evidence and letting the trail to suspects go cold. If the record of Guatemalan law enforcement is any guide, Mr. Lee's relatives may never know what happened. Only 5 percent of urban homicides in Guatemala are ever solved, and more than 500,000 other criminal cases, from robberies to kidnappings, languish without resolution in police files... The lawlessness is a grim legacy of long years of military rule, supported by the United States and ushered in by a coup backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1954. It took more than 40 years to begin to curtail the power of the armed forces and achieve peace, with a United Nations settlement in 1996. "

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Our Fruit, Their Labor and Global Reality: Dana Frank - "the big banana producers have been transferring production to Ecuador, which has been almost completely nonunion since the banana labor movement was largely crushed there in the 1970s. Dole now gets 31 percent of its bananas from Ecuador, Del Monte 13 percent, and Chiquita 7 percent, according to industry figures. Bob Kistinger, president of Chiquita's international division, complained in August 2000 that Ecuador's rock-bottom wages were making it difficult for his company to compete elsewhere. Explaining the layoff of 650 workers in Honduras, Kistinger said in the Financial Times of London: "The costs in Ecuador are so much lower. There are no unions, no labour standards and pay is as low as two dollars a day." According to a 2000 study by US/LEAP, a banana worker's average monthly wage was $500 in Panama, $200 to $300 in Colombia, $150 to $200 in Honduras -- and $56 in Ecuador. "

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Rights Lawyer's Odd Death Tests Mexican Justice: "government investigators, citing forensic evidence and a trail of correspondence, are ready to declare that Digna Ochoa was not a martyr but a suicide. The finding has set off new alarms among human rights advocates in Mexico and abroad, who counter that prosecutors are blaming a victim who can no longer defend herself rather than investigate the soldiers, paramilitary groups and rural political bosses who were the target of her human rights work."

In the Time of Hugo Chávez - long NYT magazine profile - Venezuela

Friday, May 31, 2002

Cuban Reporter Travels a Bumpy Path to Deadline: "Cuba is the only country in the hemisphere where a journalist is currently imprisoned for an offense related to his work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York. Bernardo Arévalo Padrón was jailed in November 1997 for comments in which he called Mr. Castro a liar. Independent journalists have been prohibited from leaving their homes, repeatedly subjected to brief detentions and picked up on the street to be dropped off miles away just before news conferences with dissidents. The journalists' committee lists Cuba as one of the world's 10-worst places for reporters. "

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Colombian President-Elect Softens Tone on Rebels: "analysts who have closely followed Colombia's conflict saw Mr. Uribe's remarks today as an effort to assuage concerns in the United States and Europe about his hard-line reputation by casting himself as a moderate willing to talk peace. The analysts noted that the rebels were virtually sure to turn down any chance to negotiate under Mr. Uribe's demands: that they first declare a cease-fire and end hostile actions like kidnappings. The rebels would be further alienated by Mr. Uribe's proposal to include the paramilitaries in talks."

Monday, May 27, 2002

Hard-Liner Elected in Colombia With a Mandate to Crush Rebels: "resounding victory today to a hard-right candidate for president who promises a sharp buildup in the armed forces to battle two rebel groups that have been waging war for 38 years. With 97 percent of returns counted this evening, election officials said Álvaro Uribe Vélez had received 53 percent of the vote, more than 20 percentage points ahead of his closest rival"

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Caracas 'Circles': Vicious, or Sociable?: " they have been called armed and fanatical pro-government thugs, the people who form the neighborhood groups, organized and financed by President Hugo Chávez's administration, known as the Bolivarian Circles. But here in the Isaías Medina Angarita neighborhood, the members of the local Circle are mothers and children, old men and a few teenagers. They meet to paint murals, pave pathways and make other improvements to their community, built helter-skelter on a dusty hillside overlooking this city."

Monday, May 20, 2002

Bush Faces Pressure From Congress to Alter Cuba Policy: "after decades in which the forces for isolating Cuba have dominated the policy, a new crop of lawmakers have demanded change. Advocates say that a majority in the House and Senate favor lifting the travel ban, but that the House Republican leadership has stymied any action. Farm groups, with substantial Republican support in Congress, are the most important growing organized constituency pressing to open lucrative overseas markets to American agriculture."

Chilean Mystery: Clues to Vanished American: "Of more than 1,000 people cataloged by human rights groups as having "disappeared" during the 17 years General Pinochet was in power, the only American citizen is Boris Weisfeiler. He was 43 when he vanished.... Mr. Weisfeiler was probably kidnapped by Chilean state security forces, who reportedly handed him over to a secretive and heavily armed pro-Nazi religious sect based nearby. One military informant said Mr. Weisfeiler, a Russian-born Jew, was held captive there, interrogated, tortured and finally executed. The American records, which have prompted a reopening of the case, also show that diplomats at the United States Embassy in Santiago were always skeptical of the Chilean government's version of events, and pushed to have the case investigated aggressively. But their efforts were blocked by State Department officials in Washington, who were unwilling to provide the money needed for the investigation."

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Colombian War Brings Carnage to Village Altar: "117 people, including more than 40 children, were killed here last Thursday when a rebel rocket hit the church where they had sought refuge."

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Big Tobacco, smuggling: "Twenty-five percent of exported cigarettes, according to the World Health Organization, are smuggled. Smuggling has enabled multinational tobacco companies to increase sales volume dramatically by evading local tariffs and competing head to head with domestic producers, thereby helping to establish internationally recognizable brands....
From 1984 to 1993.. the number of cigarettes illegally imported into [Colombia] quadrupled. Meanwhile, domestic cigarette producers' share of total cigarette sales dropped.... Colombia used to have a thriving domestic tobacco industry, but since 1984 the amount of hectares devoted to tobacco crops has plummeted. As the domestic cigarette industry imploded, many tobacco farmers made the shift to Colombia's far more famous addictive crop, coca.

Monday, May 06, 2002

Washington Accuses Cuba of Germ-Warfare Research: "administration officials say the United States now believes that Cuba has been experimenting with anthrax, as well as a small number of other deadly pathogens that they declined to identify.... Cuban biotechnological research is far advanced in genetic engineering. That has enabled Cuba to make new vaccines for its comprehensive immunization program, which is widely admired by scientists and physicians. "

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Foreign Policy In Focus - U.S. Shadow Over Venezuela "Chavez added one million children to the nation's schools. He increased economic growth by 4 percent. Infant mortality and unemployment dropped, and literacy and minimum wages increased. He also rewrote agreements with Phillips Petroleum and Exxon/Mobil to give Venezuela a bigger slice of its oil revenues, and appointed new directors to the state-owned oil company to keep prices in line with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies. Venezuela has long been a "ratebuster," pumping more oil and selling it for less that OPEC did, thus denying the country the income from higher prices. Of all his accomplishments, this may have been the fatal one. Mess with big oil under the Bush Doctrine at your own peril."

Fidel Castro at Monterrey Conference: A Better World Is Possible: "The world economy is today a huge casino. Recent analyses indicate that for every dollar that goes into trade, over one hundred end up in speculative operations completely disconnected from the real economy. As a result of this economic order, over 75 percent of the world population lives in underdevelopment, and extreme poverty has already reached 1.2 billion people in the Third World. So, far from narrowing the gap is widening. The revenue of the richest nations that in 1960 was 37 times larger than that of the poorest is now 74 times larger. The situation has reached such extremes that the assets of the three wealthiest persons in the world amount to the GDP of the 48 poorest countries combined. The number of people actually starving was 826 million in the year 2001. There are at the moment 854 million illiterate adults while 325 million children do not attend school. There are 2 billion people who have no access to low cost medications and 2.4 billion lack the basic sanitation conditions. No less than 1 1 million children under the age of 5 perish every year from preventable causes while half a million go blind for lack of vitamin A."

Collected by Jonathan March with Radio Userland software