Victims in Havana: The decisive moment in the Colombian peace process

[Translation of an article from Razón Pública of Bogotá for August 11, 2014. See original here and related articles here, here and here.]

By Marco Alberto Velásquez Ruiz

Victims and peace

The question of the victims has taken the dominant position in the framework of the peace talks being conducted by the government and the FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia]. But political tensions and controversies over who the victims are and how they may be represented by those speaking in Havana threaten to destabilize or even to halt the negotiations.

It is therefore important to examine the process of selecting the victims who are to participate directly in the negotiations, the criticisms that have been made of the process and the possible implications for the continuation of the peace talks.

As Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo has said on several occasions, the Colombian transitional justice effort is based on a series of elements meant to make it effective and legitimate and among these the participation of civil society, especially that of the victims of the conflict, stands out in the development of the dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »


Chile: Bachelet in Washington

bachelet[Translation of an article from Punto Final of Santiago for July 11, 2014. See original here and related articles here and here.]

By Álvaro Ramis

The president’s recent visit to the United States allows us to analyze the relations between the world’s leading power and our country in the context of the awakening of Latin American consciousness in defense of its sovereignty and in pursuit of integration. Michelle Bachelet showed up for her appointment in the Oval Office of the White House at an especially delicate time in the relations between the United States and Latin America. It is not trivial to stress this aspect of it. It is not just the countries of ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América — Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that are currently in a state of open tension with the Obama administration. The differences also encompass countries like Brazil, affected by the policies of economic spying on its strategic enterprises, and Argentina, which finds itself attacked by the recent United States court ruling barring it from settling its credit commitments if it does not agree at the same time to pay the so-called “vulture funds” a sum greater than 13 billion dollars, which threatens its long-term stability. In the midst of all these serious contradictions, the relations between Chile and the United States may seem like a minor consideration. But Chile’s unique position gives it a strategic role in the eyes of Washington. When Obama called Bachelet his “second favorite Michelle,” after his wife, he was not exaggerating. The United States has few friends left in Latin America and those that remain are there more from obligation or duress than from conviction. Within that framework, Chile wants to be the pretty girl playing hard to get. Chilean diplomacy, led by Minister Heraldo Muñoz, has termed the strategy “convergence in diversity.” An elegant way of declaring that in strategic disputes Chile is not going to fall in line but will pursue its own interests, in a pragmatic way. That is the official position but is it the reality? Read the rest of this entry »

Dominican Republic: The struggle against Barrick Gold

[Translations of two articles, from Listín Diario for July 1 and for July 4, 2014, respectively. See originals here and here and related articles here, here, here and here. Dating from 1505, Cotuí is one of the first towns in the Americans to be established by the Spaniards, who exploited its rich deposits of gold for several centuries.]

Dominican Republic: Protests against Barrick Gold will continue

Residents of Cotuí complain of mine’s negative impact

By Lilian Tejeda

Residents of Cotuí, the capital of the province of Sánchez Ramírez, will continue their struggle next Monday against alleged abuses by the multinational mining company Barrick Gold, which in the five years since it was established in the country, they say, has left only a trail of disasters.

“You can’t live there, it is a disaster zone. There is no potable water, everything is contaminated, the animals are dying. Despite its being one of the richest provinces, right now it is the poorest,” said Miguel D’Oleo, president of the Confederación Nacional de Familias sin Casa y sin Tierra (National Confederation of Homeless and Landless Families). Read the rest of this entry »

Colombia: What is the opposition going to do?

 ((Álvaro Uribe  -- Semana photo by Diana Acosta))

((Álvaro Uribe — Semana photo by Diana Acosta))

After failing to remove Juan Manuel Santos from the Casa de Nariño, former president Uribe’s opposition will move from Twitter to the Senate

[Translation of an unsigned article from Semana of Bogotá for June 16. See original here and related articles here, here and here.]

For two years Álvaro Uribe, the most popular politician in the recent history of Colombia, set for himself the goal of preventing the re-election of his immediate successor and heir, Juan Manuel Santos. He turned his Twitter account, with its more than three million followers, into an anti-administration platform; he created the Centro Democrático party, the main opposition block in the new congress, with him in the lead; and with its backing he carried Óscar Iván Zuluaga to within a few percentage points of the Casa de Nariño [seat of the executive branch].

Beyond defeating the Uribista candidate, Santos defeated his mentor, transformed for more than half his first term into his Nemesis. The main reason the re-election campaign did not turn out to be a leisurely exercise, like other recent experiences in Latin America, was Uribe’s determined opposition. The former president was also responsible for exposing and exploiting the current president’s mistakes, in one of the most intense, litigious and aggressive electoral contests in recent history. The relative weakness with which Santos will begin his second term compared with his first is due almost entirely to the attacks by Uribe and his followers. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil: Hostility against Dilma has a color and a class

The Brazil that cheers for the team at home and in public places reacts to the elite who paid high prices to curse President Dilma Rousseff

[Translation of an article from Carta Maior of São Paulo for June 15, 2014. See original here and related articles here,  here and here.]

By Najla Passos

Brasilia – President Dilma Rousseff reacted on Friday to the curses she heard from the privileged fans who could afford the admission prices set by FIFA for the opening match of the World Cup in Itaquerão, in São Paulo.

During the inauguration of the first stage of the southern line of the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) in the Federal District, one more of the “World Cup projects,” which they kept telling us would never be ready, she recalled that not even the physical assaults she suffered during the dictatorship intimidated her to the point of diverting her from her path and that of her companions. Read the rest of this entry »

Two years after Curuguaty massacre, Paraguayan campesinos denounce persecution

03-Hugo-ValienteLeaders claim landless workers are prevented from even growing food for their families

[Translation of an article from Opera Mundi of São Paulo for June 16, 2014. See original here and go here for more articles on the Curuguaty massacre and its consequences.]

By Vanessa Martina Silva

“One day we decided to plant cassava, corn and beans to feed the families displaced in the Curuguaty massacre. A week later, we got a notice. They accused us of trespassing on private property.” This story was told to Opera Mundi by Martina Paredes, a member of the committee of victims of the massacre, which occurred two years ago this Sunday, June 15. In her defense, she says that the families needed the crops in order to survive.

Martina lost two brothers, Fermín and Luis Paredes, in the confrontation, which resulted in 17 deaths, eleven of them campesinos and six of them policemen. Four of her 11 siblings were living on the settlement. She was not at the scene of the tragedy but in a neighboring settlement. “But that June 15 changed my life,” she says. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil: If the Right should win

[Translation of an op-ed from Brasil de Fato of São Paulo for June 5, 2014. See original here.]

by Igor Fuser

In this year’s presidential elections [on October 5], Brazil is facing the risk of a brutal political regression, with the eventual return to the federal government of the forces of the Right, represented principally by tucano [of the centrist Social Democracy Party] candidate Aécio Neves. If that happens we will have a change of direction toward a more unequal, more authoritarian, more conservative country. It is self-deception to imagine a simple return to the times of FHC [Fernando Henrique Cardoso, tucano, president from 1995 to 2003]. In order to understand what may lie ahead, it is better to think of the United States Tea Party, Colombian uribismo [policies of rightist former president Álvaro Uribe], the Ukrainian Right. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace in Latin America at stake in Colombian election

((Zuluaga and Uribe -- El Clarín photo))

((Zuluaga and Uribe — El Clarín photo))

[Translation of an article from El Clarín of Santiago, Chile, for May 29, 2014. See original here.]

By Ángel Guerra Cabrera

The runoff in the Colombian presidential elections on June 15 will be of exceptional importance for Latin America and the Caribbean.

If Uribista candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga, whose dirty war campaign was managed by [former President Álvaro] Uribe, should prevail, the peace process in Havana between the FARC and the Colombian government would cease and the country would fall into a bloody intensification of the hostilities with this guerrilla and with the ELN [Ejército de Liberación Nacional].

Zuluaga based his campaign on an iron fist against the guerrilla and declared the day after his winning the first round that he would suspend the peace talks in Havana provisionally until the FARC, which he describes as the largest drug cartel in the world, agrees to a unilateral ceasefire and other onerous conditions. This is the equivalent of asking the guerrilla to surrender unconditionally, which would put an end to the promising peace process. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil: A bitter cup

Brazil[Translation of an article from El Clarín of Santiago, Chile, for May 29, 2014. See original here and related articles here , here  and here.]

By Rodrigo Vianna

The greatest soccer event in the world is coming back to Brazil after more than 60 years. Memories of the 1950 World Cup, when we were defeated by Uruguay right in the Maracaná Stadium, remain in the popular imagery. When FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] chose Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, euphoria filled a large part of the Brazilian populace: Would this be the time to raise the cup at home? If there was a shadow of a doubt from a technical point of view over our team’s ability for such an accomplishment, from the political point of view holding the World Cup here seemed a conquest, a mark of the “Brazil of the Future.”

Meanwhile, the apparent unanimity surrounding this event began to sour with the activities in June of last year when thousands of people protested across from the stadiums where the Confederations Cup matches [a FIFA-sponsored tournament held the year before the World Cup] were held. Since then, the Cup has been in the headlines. On the one hand, calls for protests against the Cup; on the other, all the TV publicity by the sponsoring companies, in the tune of the Cup. But will there be a World Cup or not? There seem to be only two sides to this dispute: you either defend the Cup, FIFA, the government, the state, or you are against them: against the Cup, against the team, against Brazil. This is what false questions do: they lead us to false dilemmas. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil: Why some in São Paulo hate the World Cup

xcrowd2[Translation of an article from Folha de São Paulo for May 25, 2014. See original here and an op-ed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defending the World Cup here.]

by Rafael Andery

In spite of 1958. In spite of 1962. Of 1970 and 1994. Of 2002. In spite of Pelé and Garrincha, of Bebeto and Romário, of Ronaldo and Rivaldo. In spite of the “homeland of the soccer shoe” and of Nelson Rodrigues. In spite of Neymar and of all the other stars, many natives of São Paulo are not even a little interested in the performance of the Brazilian team in the World Cup.

The reasons for the indifference vary. From high rents to contempt for the commercialization of soccer, to aversion for the sport or the costs imposed by the organizers of the event, the truth is that a little less than a month before the opening of the Cup in Itaquerão, in the eastern area, the competition does not seem to be creating as much excitement as did previous editions. Read the rest of this entry »

The World is in Brazil

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a ceremony with rural workers at Planalto Palace in BrasiliaThe country is ready, on and off the playing field, to hold a good World Cup – and it will

[Translation of an op-ed from the Brazilian edition of the Spanish newspaper El País for May 14, 2014. See original here and an article on opposition to the World Cup here.]

By Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

When I was president of the republic I worked hard for the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. And I didn’t do it for economic or political reasons but for what soccer represents to people everywhere and, especially, to the Brazilian people. Our people supported the idea enthusiastically, rejecting the elitist notion of those who say that an event of this magnitude “is something for rich countries,” forgetting that Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Brazil itself have already hosted it successfully.

Soccer is the only truly universal sport, played and loved in every country, by people of the most diverse classes, ethnicities, cultures and religions.

And perhaps no other country in the world has its identity so closely linked with soccer as Brazil does. It was not only assimilated but, in some ways, it was also transformed by ginga and by the Brazilian mixture of races. A new rhythm, beauty and art came to the feet of the descendents of Africans. For many years, it was one of the few areas, along with popular music, in which Black people could demonstrate their talent, countering racial discrimination with liberating joy. It is for this very reason that soccer and music are often the first things foreigners remember when Brazil is being talked about. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil: Every month a child or adolescent dies at work


((O Globo photo))

((O Globo photo))

[Translation of an article from O Globo of Rio de Janeiro for May 18, 2014. See original here and related articles here, here and here.]

By Cássia Almeida, Clarice Spitz, Flavio Ilha and Roberta Scrivano

 Rio de Janeiro, Novo Hamburgo and Belo Horizonte – Last March 5, 14-year-old Max Fernandes Ritzel dos Santos was on his first day of work at a construction site in the city of São Leopoldo, in Rio Grande do Sul. While working at a cement mixer, without using protective gear, he was electrocuted.

“It was just a small bare wire but the shock stopped his heart. I am proud to know that he died working and not at the hands of some policeman or trafficker. Just as God knows when to put us here on earth, he also knows when to take us back,” cries his mother, Roseli Ritzel, who still owes 1,300 reais [about US$590] for her child’s burial. Read the rest of this entry »