Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Around Latin America

-One of the top officials of the Stroessner regime has died, and with him, hopes at getting answers for some victims' families have died as well. Alberto Cantero, who spent 10 years in prison for his role in "disappearances," passed away at the age of 75 this week, taking with him to the grave secrets of how victims of the 35-year-dictatorship were tortured and killed and where they are buried.
-In Argentina, former detention centers are facing disrepair as the Buenos Aires government has not paid for their upkeep. These centers, while no longer in use, still serve as powerful sites in retaining the memory of the horrors of the 7-year dictatorship that left upwards of 30,000 Argentines dead.
-The trial of former Costa Rican president Miguel Angel Rodriguez has begun in Costa Rica. Rodriguez is charged with corruption after he allegedly accepted bribes from a French telecommunications company while in office.
-PBS aired "Worse than War" tonight. In it, Daniel Goldhagen confronted former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who led the government during some of the most brutal massacres of Guatemala's decades-long civil war. You can see the Rios Montt footage from the documentary here.
-In Brazil, the poor continue to be disproportionately affected by last week's floods and landslides. The Rio state government has begun destroying favelas on lands deemed unsafe, dislocating hundreds of poor cariocas. The flood has also indefinitely shut down trips to the Christ Redeemer statue, as workers try to dig the railway and roads to Brazil's iconic statue out from all of the mud.
-Speaking of the favelas, I highly recommend this article, which details the relations between favela residents and the police who often occupy the favelas for long periods of time in the "war on drugs."
-In more bad news out of Brazil, the country is in shock after a 40-year-old worker confessed to the rape-murder of six teenage boys near Brasilia. The story comes in the wake of scandal within the Church after a Catholic priest was videotaped having sex with a 19-year-old former altar boy while others alleged they had also been abused by the priest.
-Finally, on a more lighthearted note, this is absolutely a battle I can support 100%:
The growing presence of alien spirits in the Brazilian caipirinha has led enthusiasts to attempt to "rescue" their national drink. The Save the Caipirinha campaign was launched last month with an online petition that has attracted 10,000 signatures from cachaca fans, chefs, and celebrities.
"We formally declare that we no longer wish to see our caipirinha being made with vodka or sake instead of cachaca," reads the campaign manifesto, the brainchild of the Cachaca Leblon brand. "We do not accept that this drink, which is famous and respected around the world, be disrespected in Brazil."
I couldn't agree more. When I first arrived in Brazil, "caipivodkas" were huge among young drinkers, and I was horrified. It wasn't just that it was flavorless alcohol with fruit in it; cachaca is so good as it is in Brazil that substituting it with vodka made about as much sense to me as substituting Brazilian beef with a hot pocket. I none-too-politely pointed out that I failed to understand why on earth I would consume a flavorless drink, much less one I could make in the United States, when they had such amazing cachacas that were unavailable to me in the United States. I'm glad to see the battle against caipivodkas (and caipi-sakis) gaining traction in Brazil, and will make it a point to consume many caipirinhas as a political statement next time I'm there.