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LAB Newsletter August 2016

2 August 2016 STRIKES IN RIO – END OF CONFLICT IN SIGHT IN COLOMBIA – EIGHT MONTHS ON FROM MARIANA DISASTER – PERUVIAN ELECTIONS AND MORE Dear LAB Supporter and Friend, One important piece of recent news comes from Colombia. After protracted negotiations in Havana, the Santos government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have signed off the last component of an agreement, which should now lead to a definitive ceasefire. There is also news from Brazil, where Fabiana Alves visits some of the towns and cities affected by last November’s mining disaster near Mariana, Minas Gerais, and Ali Sargent describes the desperation of workers staging unofficial strikes in Rio. There’s also reaction to the Peruvian election results and a report on an original artistic initiative in Mexico. COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT AND FARC SIGN END OF CONFLICT AGREEMENT On June 23, Colombians turned out in their tens of thousands to watch the historic signing of the ‘End of Conflict’ agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). While the ceasefire does not come into immediate effect, it now seems as though Colombia has a real chance to bring an end to the longest running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Gwen Burnyeat and Andrei Gómez-Suárez summarise the main points of the agreement for LAB, warning also that it still has some powerful opponents, not least former president Álvaro Uribe, who has made it clear he will fight it until the very end. (Read more…) STRIKES AND PROTESTS BEFORE THE RIO OLYMPICS With the Games officially opening on Friday August 5, all is not well in the city: the disastrous economic downturn has led to the shelving of major construction projects and the mothballing of new industrial developments. Much of the work was placed with companies implicated in Lava Jato. Their workforce, laid off in tens of thousands, are struggling to get back-pay due to them. Things are little better in the public sector where many jobs were outsourced. SOS Emprego is one of the groups fighting back and supporting some of the numerous unofficial strikes. Ali Sargent has followed the story for LAB (Read more…) EIGHT MONTHS ON FROM THE MARIANA MINE DISASTER Brazil suffered arguably its worst-ever environmental disaster in November last year, when a mine tailings dam close to Mariana in the state of Minas Gerais burst, obliterating the village of Bento Rodrigues, where at least 17 people were killed. The vast wall of mud contaminated the Rio Doce and wrecked ecosystems as far away as the Espírito Santo coastline. In June, Fabiana Alves of Greenpeace Brazil visited some of the towns and cities affected. She argues that the government has not done enough to ensure that those responsible for the disaster clear up their mess and compensate those affected by the tragedy. She also expresses concern that a Proposed Constitutional Amendment currently under discussion will further weaken environmental legislation. (Read more…) PERU: AN APPEAL TO CIVIL SOCIETY The recent elections in Peru saw the right-wing economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly defeat Keiko Fujimori in the second round. For former mayor of Lima Susana Villarán, the prospect of a Fujimori administration represented an existential threat to Peruvian democracy, Keiko’s father Alberto having staged a presidential coup in the 1990s in which he shut down Congress and suspended the Constitution. Villarán here appeals to Peruvians to defend their democracy and ensure Kuczynski pursues public policies which promote the common good. (Read more…) FOOTSTEPS OF THOSE SEARCHING FOR THE DISAPPEARED IN MEXICO While the international media has tended to focus on exceptional cases, such as the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in 2014, the reality is that disappearance has long been part of life in Mexico. According to government figures, nearly 27,000 people disappeared between 2006-2012, and the true figure is likely to be significantly higher. Moreover, the problem is getting worse. Danielle House reports on a unique initiative undertaken by artist Alredo López Casanova, in which he inscribes the stories of the disappeared into the soles of the shoes of those who are searching for them. (Read more…) LAB’S BRAZIL INSIDE OUT GUIDE UPDATED Just a reminder that LAB’s Brazil guidebook, produced for the World Cup in 2014, was updated for the Rio Olympics. The thinking traveller’s essential guide to Brazil is available from Development Bookshop. With best wishes, The LAB team

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