Friday, July 17, 2009

Around Latin America

-Ever since the War of the Pacific, Bolivia has been without direct access to the ocean, joining Paraguay as the only two landlocked countries in the Americas (out of 44 globally). However, aid may be coming soon, as Uruguay is seriously considering offering access to the sea to Bolivia.

-Are individuals in the FBI contributing directly to the drug violence plaguing Mexico?

-Augusto Montanaro, the Minister of the Interior for over 20 years during the dictatorial regime of Alfredo Stroessner, returned to Paraguay this week after 20 years in exile. This is major news because Montanaro was one of the key figures in the tortures and disappearances during Stroessner's 35-year reign: "as interior minister from 1966 to the end of the Stroessner regime, Montanaro was instrumental in the abduction, torture and mu rder of government opponents and he faces numerous criminal charges in Paraguay." Upon his return, he was medically examined and then sent off to the national prison, where hopefully he will serve his remaining days; however, his "senility" and Parkinson's disease make it seem likely he may end up with house arrest (though I'm not familiar with the particulars of Paraguayan prison law in terms of the ailing).

-For all the talk and mention one hears about UNICEF, it's rare that anybody knows exactly how the organization is effecting change in the world. Well, it would appear that, among other things, it's helping trobuled youths in Guyana get a second chance and seeking genuine reforms that rehabilitate rather than punish juveniles in that country.

-Human rights organizations are asking for the protection of a Chilean journalist after he received death threats from right-wing apologists groups. Francisco Herreros, head of the communist El Siglo, received the threats from right-wing terrorists after the newspaper published "a series of declassified CIA documents that involve Chilean right wing organizations and persons in crimes, fraud and other violations," providing just one more reminder that, while Pinochet and his regime have been largely discredited within Chile and abroad, there are still extremists who feel that those who disagree with them should be killed.

-Also in Chile, around 100 indigenous Mapuches marched on the presidential palace in Santiago, "trying to denounce police repression prevailing in their communities, as well as the implementation of the Anti-terrorist Act," and seeking a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet. Despite the importance of human rights rhetoric and justice in terms of the Pinochet regime, repression and violations of Mapuches' rights continue at a disturbing rate in Chile.

-I'm not quite sure why the South Dakota National Guard might need training in jungle warfare, but the U.S.'s 46th-most populated state has entered into a partnership with Suriname for military training, as well as a "medical readiness exercise."

-Johnny Depp as Pancho Villa? (h/t)

-Apparently, Dominica's Prime Minister has been talking trash about the other islands in the Caribbean. I look forward to responses from Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Montserrat, and others. Could this be the first step in an inter-island war in the Caribbean? The world watches with baited breath...

-Finally, one of my favorite "discoveries" last year was a great album of Garifuna music sung by women. For those who are unfamiliar with Garifuna music (the Garinagu people are descendants of indigenous and African peoples in the Caribbean coast of Central America), it's excellent stuff, and (in addition to the samples at Amazon), you can check out some more music and info about it here.