Sunday, August 02, 2009

Around Latin America

-In absolutely excellent news, 15 Colombian soldiers were sentenced to 4 to 30 years in prison for killing two civilians whom they later claimed were "rebels." The 10 soldiers (including an officer) who were involved with planning and murdering the two victims received 30-year sentences, while another five men involved with covering up the killings received 4-year sentences. This is major news, as it's one of the first times soldiers have been charged and convicted in "false positive" killings, or killing civilians and later covering it up by saying the dead were "rebels" allied with teh FARC. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of the end of impunity in Colombia.

-Brazilian police this week broke up a gang that specialized in trafficking prostitutes internationally. The gang used the internet and brothels to recruit women whom it then sent to Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic, and France to work as prostitutes. Ten individuals (including one American) were arrested in Brazil, and two more Americans are being held in the U.S.

-Roberto Micheletti's government has declared an end to the curfew it imposed. The curfew, declared in mid-July, was the second time Micheletti's "democratic" government made such a move since the coup at the end of June. And in a related story, Greg points out the hypocrisy of Honduras condemning Venezuela's government for imposing censorship, while Honduras's government imposes censorship.

-Former Costa Rican president Rafael Angel Calderon is facing the possibility of 24 years in prison after prosecutors charged him for corruption. Calderon, who was president of Costa Rica from 1990 to 1994, is charged with pocketing over half a million dollars in commission money intended to help Costa Rica's healthcare system. Calderon, who is hoping to seek another turn as president (Costa Rica disallows consecutive terms, but presidents can serve twice non-consecutively), says the charges are "politically motivated," though I don't really know if that's just window dressing or a legitimate charge. Calderon is the first former president to stand trial in Costa Rica.

-Is Lula trying to regain state ownership of the world's largest iron ore producer? Veja isn't the most reliable source (by which I mean, Veja is frequently part of the effort to smear Lula and discredit him), but the fact that Vale was owned by the Brazilian state until Fernando Henrique Cardoso privatized it in 1997, and that Vale's second-quarter profits apparently dropped 84% compared to last year, lends a certain degree of legitimacy to at least the possibility of the Brazilian state trying to regain control of Vale.

-And in more cheerful environmental news, there's an interesting (if depressing) story on the arrival of the nutria, a large (up to 30 lb.) rodent from Argentina, in the United States, and the havoc it is wreaking on the Chesapeake Bay. The nutria feeds on plants in the wetlands, leading to no plant life and wetland, but open water.