Monday, June 25, 2018

Latest blog posts

Venezuela: avoiding the abyss

In this two-part post, former LAB editor Javier Farje examines the roots of the present crisis and its roots and observes the country’s much maligned election process. 1. An economy in agony In early March this year, I went to Caracas to attend a conference. It turned out to be an exercise in sloganeering and endless Vivas to Chávez, Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution. I decided to leave the venue and walk the streets of Caracas to talk to the people in the streets. It was an educational experience. People are, indeed, very critical of the government. However, the problem is that...

Colombia: election result imperils peace

On Sunday 17th June Colombians headed to the polls to vote for their new President. As of 5.30pm the results pointed to a clear victory by the candidate Ivan Duque with around 55% of the votes. The candidate through his political campaign has pledged to do substantial adjustments to the peace agreement between the Government and the guerrilla group, the FARC, signed in November 2016. Ivan Duque represents the far-right wing party, Centro Democrático, founded by former President Alvaro Uribe in 2013. Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid´s Country Manager in Colombia says: “We are concerned about calls by the new President to...

Nicaragua: 81 deaths that affect us all

Over the last month, we have seen a brutal escalation of institutional violence in Nicaragua. A recent report by Amnesty International highlights the country’s strategy of repression, excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions and control of the media. Most recently pro-government armed groups have been used to halt protests in the streets and as a result, at least 81 people have been killed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k7cYE3geVo&feature=youtu.behttp:// Amnesty International video The foundations of international democracy suffer when a State violates civil and human rights.  The international community must speak out against repression by the Nicaraguan State. Since 18th April, the State has tried to silence the...

Brazil: lorry drivers strike brings chaos

São Paulo, 29 May 2018: A week-long strike by hundreds of thousands of lorry drivers, blockading highways and interrupting deliveries of petrol, food, medical supplies and livestock, paralysed Brazil. Without fuel, planes were grounded, buses were unable to run, and cars were stranded. Without medicines and blood, hospitals cancelled operations and turned patients away. Schools and universities closed down. Without feed, millions of chickens and pigs died of starvation. Without transport, thousands of litres of milk were poured into the ground. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-g1OWOWbPk Lorry drivers speaking about the strike. Later in the report, a 'Military intervention now!' banner is visible in the...

Colombia: an election which may determine the fate of peace

Colombia: an election which will determine the fate of peace By Thomas Mortensen, Colombia Country Manager, Christian Aid As Colombians head to the polls on the 27th May, the internationally recognised peace agreement signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in late 2016, hangs in the balance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGh4F_AlWxA&feature=youtu.be Edited highlights of a debate between Colombian presidential candidates Ivan Duque and Gustavo Petro, held at New York's Columbia University, 24 March 2018. A full recording can be watched here. This agreement has the potential to put an end to more than 60 years of conflict which left 8 million victims, including 7 million...

Brazil: Geisel authorized targeted killings

In the last two weeks the Brazilian scholar Matias Spektor of the Fundação Getúlio Vargas has brought to light documents which take us back to the dark depths of the country’s military regime which governed from 1964 to 1984. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaiFvx6lNSU Matias Spektor comments on the discovery of the CIA documents. Interview by Pedro Bial, Video: Fatos Incríveis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2mP3XbFZPY Jair Bolsonaro defends Reserve General Antonio Hamilton Mourão, who spoke of 'military intervention', criticised the military policing of Rio as a 'weak military intervention', and is a fan of Col.Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, in charge of torture during the 1970s military dictatorship. Video: Portal da...

Brazil: Lula imprisoned

The imprisonment of former president Lula takes place against a background which is complicated at best and murky at worst. The case against him is as follows: Lula’s wife, who died two years ago, had been eligible to purchase a $0.5 million duplex apartment in the seaside resort of Guarujá in São Paulo state, but subject to paying for an upgrade which was undertaken by OAS, a company belonging to the notorious construction giant Oderbrecht.  She did not pay the sums, and signed no deed or transfer, thus renouncing her title, but the upgrade went ahead anyway. Despite the absence of any...

Brazil: Lula’s last stand

São Paulo, 16 April. Lula disappeared into the federal police building in Curitiba on 7 April and nobody knows when he will be seen again. Two days before, after the Supreme Court refused to grant him a habeas corpus, the PT’s presidential candidate had bunkered down at the HQ of the metalworkers union in São Bernardo, surrounded by thousands of loyal supporters who filled the streets around the squat blue building. Judge Sergio Moro had given him until 6 p.m. on Friday 6  April to turn himself in and begin serving his 12 year sentence.  When I looked at the images...

Brazil: the judges, the generals and all the president’s men

In a decision as closely watched as a World Cup final, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided by 6 to 5 to reject a habeas corpus application for ex-president Lula, opening the way for his imminent arrest.  The eleven judges spent 11 hours proffering their votes in erudite, legal language peppered with Latin expressions, impossible for the man or woman in the street to understand.  Five voted for the habeas corpus, which would have allowed Lula to remain at liberty while appealing his case to the Supreme Court, five voted against. It then fell to the court president Carmen Lucia to...

The four bullets that killed Marielle

22 March 2018. Marielle Franco was executed with four bullets. One each for racism, misogyny, homophobia and impunity. By killing Marielle, the assassins eliminated not just a politician elected on the PSOL ticket to the Rio City Council with 46,000 votes, a lone black woman in the sea of white, male, wealthy politicians. They also silenced the voice of a spokesperson for minorities, for the LGBT community, for the dignity of favela dwellers, for women in general, for the human rights of all Rio’s citizens, including the right of young black men not to be shot dead as suspects by...

Marielle: she inspired all of us

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIhSvU6trWs Video: The intercept The murder on 14 March of Marielle Franco, a young black city councillor and human rights campaigner, has deeply traumatized Rio de Janeiro, a city so cheated by the failure of mega-events such as the World Cup and Olympics  to deliver lasting social change, and so bitterly accustomed to violence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN-JjAX_zdw Political colleagues and family members speak out about the murder of Marielle. Video: SBT So far, no arrests have been made and Franco's left-wing PSOL party and supporters are now fighting attempts by right-wing commentators to smear her reputation with claims that she 'collaborated' with 'bandidos', and assertions that...

Violence in Rio escalates with murder of city councillor

Little did she know that she would be the next victim when Marielle Franco, a left-wing city councillor, penned her last twitter post, denouncing the killing of yet another young black man in the favelas of Rio. “Another homicide of a young man that can be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving  church when he was killed. How many more will have to die before this war ends?” Last night Franco was going home in a car in Rio's city centre after an event encouraging black women's empowerment  when another car with two men pulled up alongside hers...

Brazil’s carnivals denounce the monsters of corruption and discrimination

São Paulo, 15 February 2018. It’s Ash Wednesday and all that’s left of Carnival in the streets of São Paulo are rows of chemical toilets and a homeless man wearing a paper crown. Hard to believe that over the last four days these same streets were jam packed with multi-coloured crowds in their hundreds of thousands, dancing, and singing, not just to the rhythms of samba, but also frevo, funk, sertanejo. Street carnival, with ‘blocos’ numbering up to a million followers took over this city, and many others. If you ventured into the streets during those days, you shared them...

Brazil’s Cinderella: to prison, or to the ball?

São Paulo, 26 January 2018. Not only was Lula’s appeal rejected and his sentence increased to twelve years by the court in Porto Alegre on 24 January, but in Brasilia another judge banned him from travelling to Ethiopia on a previously planned trip to take part in a FAO conference on food, to prevent him ‘asking for political asylum’. Lula’s trial and sentence have dominated the week in Brazil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=-uyDTXRtafQ The judgement against Lula changed the daily routine in Porto Alegre. Video: Sul21 on YouTube TV and radio stations transmitted live from the courthouse, where a temporary press room had been set up...