Sunday, February 28, 2010

Around Latin America

-The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force the U.S. intelligence community to open up and share files related to the Argentine military dictatorship of 1976-1983. This is a big move both in revealing what the U.S.'s role in and knowledge of the "Dirty War" entailed, as well as helping hundreds of ongoing human rights cases in Argentina. The bill still has to pass the Senate and get Obama's signature.

-Last week, Lula removed general Maynard Marques de Santa Rosa from his position after the general had continued to criticize the newly-founded Truth Commission designed to investigate and detail human rights abuses during Brazil's 21-year military dictatorship. Santa Rosa is not the first military leader to oppose the Commission, and it's good news that Lula is not bowing down to criticisms from the military on this.

-Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti both may be out of office, but a strong grassroots movement in Honduras continues to protest against the government, calling for "constitutional reform and accountability for human rights abuses." Meanwhile, President Lobo Sosa replaced one coupist general with another as the head of the armed forces.

-The retrial date of a man accused of killing American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang has been set.

-As if the earthquake itself had not been devastating enough, a tsunami added to the damage of Haiti's January quake.

-Meanwhile, Chile continues to dig out from its 8.8-magnitude earthquake, the strongest to shake the country since the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, which at 9.5 was the strongest earthquake ever measured. Chile was not alone, yesterday, as a region in northern Argentina also was struck by a 6.1 earthquake.

-New reports suggest that Brazil's middle class continues to grow, but the enormous gap between the richest and poorest Brazilians has not improved.

-It's not terribly surprising, but Hugo Chavez has lashed out against an OAS report that severely rebukes Venezuela for documented human rights violations.

-In other unsurprising news,Carlos Menem continues to make a mockery of the Argentine political system.

-Alberto Fujimori's daughter will be allowed to wed in jail so that he may give away his daughter. This seems unremarkable, but is a powerful demonstration of the contrast between the democratic process in Peru and the authoritarian rule of Fujimori, who would not extend a similar courtesy to then-exiled-ex-president Alan Garcia when Garcia's father died.

-The Brazilian government has pulled a beer ad featuring Paris Hilton rubbing a can of beer all over herself. The governmental office on Women's Rights wanted the ad pulled because beer commercials in Brazil are not allowed to explicitly treat women as sexual objects (a law that would no doubt result in an overwhelming number of American beer commercials being withdrawn).

-A referendum on whether or not gay marriage should be legal could be on the ballots in Costa Rica by the end of the year.

-Former governor of Brasilia Jose Arruda remains in jail while the government proceeds to put together a case against Arruda, who is charged with multiple counts of corruption. This seems mundane, but given that Arruda remains in jail while prosecutors and politicians seriously deal with the charges is a major step in the right direction for a country that has often overlooked (and even encouraged) corruption within state, city, and federal governmental offices.

-Is there such a thing as "socially responsible mining," and is it sustainable? Incidents in El Salvador are suggesting that the answer to those two questions very well may be "no."

-Last week, the Christian Science Monitor filed a report pondering if the coup in Honduras last year could set up a model for a similar power-seizure in neighboring Nicaragua. However, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega insists a coup will not happen.

-Finally, the Catholic Church is suing Columbia Pictures over the unauthorized use of the Christ the Redeemer statue (and its destruction) in the movie 2012. No word if millions of people will be suing Columbia for continuing to allow Roland Emmerich to make movies.