Monday, December 11, 2017

Latest blog posts

Rio’s rulers behind bars as the 2018 race begins

1 December 2017. Just over a year ago, Rio was on a roll, basking in post-Olympic glory, applauded all over the world for a successful Games. Now the arrest of its most prominent politicians has exposed the rotten underbelly of the ‘cidade maravilhosa’, the beautiful city. They are facing accusations of blatant, scandalous corruption schemes that have been ripping off the public purse for years. Police persecution of the drug dealers who have turned Rio’s favelas into no-go areas has left a trail of innocent victims, shot by mistake during gun battles, and the streets have become too dangerous for...

Frei Henri, champion of justice for Brazil’s rural poor

A chapter in international solidarity with Brazil’s embattled rural poor closed on Sunday 26 November with the death of Dominican priest and lawyer, Henri des Roziers.  Henri had worked in Brazil since 1978, using his skills as a lawyer to defend rural workers’ unions and to bring to justice the landowners who ordered the killing of so many of their leaders. The tributes paid to Henri at his funeral in Paris on 1 December put his commitment into a broader context.  Born into what the French call a family of the haute-bourgeoisie, Henri showed very early that he wanted to...

Belo Horizonte gets a Land Reform Farmers Market

Authorities, representatives of social and cultural movements, and an appreciative audience gathered in Belo Horizonte for the opening of the Farmers' Market Shop, another permanent space for sale of products from Land Reform farms. The shop occupies a prime location in the capital city of Minas Gerais, on the corner of Avenida Augusto de Lima, in the Barro Preto neighbourhood, close to the Contorno inner ring-road. "I think it's a wonderful place. I'm always looking for produce from family farms and to have it here, in this part of the city, really makes it easy for us to get them....

Colombia: peace, but maybe not the peace we hoped for

Without addressing crucial elements of the original agreement, the revised peace deal risks not living up to expectations in Colombia. It has been a year since the Colombian government and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebel leader ‘Timochenko’ signed the agreement to end more than 50 years of conflict in Colombia. It was a historic moment. Since then, we have seen the FARC finally transition into a civilian political party and lay down their arms. Although this is a significant and welcome step to peace, it feels like the spirit of the original agreement has been weakened. This is clear...

Rosa’s incredible journey from Nicaragua

Nicaragua: Rosa’s incredible journey Rosa of the Wild Grass was one of LAB’s most successful publications in many years. Practical Action Publishing, who produce and distribute LAB books, named it in their top ten titles for 2016. This success is due both to the quality of the book and the story it tells, and to the incredible energy of author Fiona Macintosh in promoting it. As she recounts in this article, another key aspect has been the beautiful images which she drew for the book and which have been reproduced on posters and banners. As a publisher, LAB cannot...

Brazil: Sojourn in Santarém

Jan Rocha takes a break from her usual razor-sharp analyses of Brazil's political landscape. Yet, even in Santarém, Pará, where the Tapajos river joins the Amazon, she finds that all is change: rapid urbanisation, a massive grain terminal, clearance of forest for soya and the arrival of indigenous people from Venezuela. A full moon hangs in the sky over the Tapajos river. Senhor Gama deftly chops the end off a green coconut, upending it to drain into a machine, and then pours the liquid into two plastic mugs, and, with all the aplomb of a Downton Abbey butler, serves...

El Salvador: expelled by the FMLN, San Salvador’s mayor will run for president

This article was prepared for LAB by Anne Liedloff from several posts in Tim Muth’s excellent El Salvador Perspectives blog. You can read the originals here. Tim can be contacted on Twitter (@TimMuth) After being expelled from the FMLN, Nayib Bukele, the mayor of San Salvador, has decided to run for president of El Salvador in 2019. In a 20 minute discourse on Facebook Live last Sunday night, Bukele announced that he will not fight the expulsion in the courts, but will instead form a new political movement to achieve the presidency. Bukele spent much of his time talking about his roots in the...

Temer takes Brazil back to the past

Taking the 'country of the future' back to the past Sao Paulo, 20th October. It seems that Michel Temer will stop at nothing to buy his survival as president: even changing the rules to make it more difficult to rescue workers trapped into slavery and to punish employers caught using them. All this to please the powerful Bancada Ruralista, rural lobby, many of whom use modern  technology to produce record harvests, but reserve the right to treat some of their employees as slaves, subject to debt bondage and appalling conditions. The proposed changes would make inspections more difficult and would effectively end...

El Salvador: rainwater harvesting

This article by Tim Muth is reproduced from the excellent El Salvador Perspectives blog. You can read the original here. Tim can be contacted on Twitter (@TimMuth) Universal, affordable access to potable water does not exist in El Salvador, particularly in rural areas. One partial solution to the problem is rainwater harvesting --- when the rains fall abundantly on El Salvador, there is plenty of fresh water, if it can be captured, stored and made accessible. A recent article from IPS News describes some rainwater harvesting projects in El Salvador: Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to...

What Afro-Venezuelans can teach the government

Jesús Alberto ‘Chucho’ García is Venezuelan Consul General in New Orleans and previously represented the Venezuelan government in Angola, Mali and Burkina Faso.  He is a founder of the Juan Ramón Lugo Afro-Revolutionary Movement.  Despite describing the current opposition to Nicolás Maduro as ‘racist and fascist’, he says that the state’s bureaucratic approach to production is ignoring the creativity of the Afro-descendant communities to which he belongs.  These communities, he says, need to teach the government ‘a new form of literacy’ to free it from its obsession with oil revenues. This interview was published in the French newspaper Libération of...

Colombia: the peace process merits cautious optimism

As peace activists, we have become too accustomed to share bad news. However, on this occasion I’m glad to be able to say that, while there are still many challenges, we are on the right path towards building peace in Colombia. The oldest insurgent group in the Americas, FARC-EP (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- the People’s Army), no longer exists. The group handed over their weapons and on 1 September formed a political party, the FARC (the Revolutionary Common Alternative Force). There was much internal discussion on whether or not to keep the group’s old acronym. Some people inside...

Brazil: King Canute and his gang

Sāo Paulo, 16 September: Like a tropical King Canute, president Michel Temer defies the waves of accusations battering his government, even when they are presented by the chief prosecutor himself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR2ZsDt9SPk credit: Metropoles.com In a 240-page indictment, Rodrigo Janot, the chief prosecutor, has accused the president, his closest ministers and allies, all members of the PMDB, of forming a ‘quadrilhão’ – big criminal gang – which has stolen R$587 million (£140 million) from the public coffers over the last ten years. The ‘gang’ is accused of taking bribes from corporations which wanted government contracts with state companies like Petrobrás, Furnas and the Caixa Econômica....

Oriximiná: Quilombolas vs the mines 4 — Company policy: Divide and Rule

This is the final post in a series of four written for Christian Aid and LAB by distinguished journalists João Peres and Moriti Neto 4. Company policy: Divide and Rule MRN, or Mineração Rio do Norte, the bauxite mining company which dominates the extractive industry in Pará, improved the process of 'stakeholder mapping' in 2015, according to the company's financial report. This mapping includes "community leaders, mayors, officer clerks, town councilors, trade unionists, shop-keepers, etc.” In  plain language, it is a message to investors that the company has taken every care to prevent conflicts breaking out. Or, put even more clearly: Money talks...

Oriximiná: Quilombolas vs the mines 3 — David vs Goliath

This is the third in a series of four blog-posts, written for Christian Aid and LAB by distinguished journalists João Peres and Moriti Neto 3. David vs Goliath one public document states that since 1995, the aluminium mining company MRN (Mineração Rio do Norte) has been transferring R$495,000 per year for the maintenance of the local unit of the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), responsible for environmental monitoring, whose office is located on land provided by the mining company. Researcher Luiz Wanderley recalls that, in this way, the company guarantees something rare in the country: a conservation unit with money....