Monday, April 26, 2010

Around Latin America

-Many are aware that Colombia has been in a civil war for 40+ years, but the ongoing process of electoral processes sometimes obscures just how violent Colombia still is. In the last 8 years (2002-2010), 20,915 people in Colombia have died as a direct result of its ongoing war. Stop and think about that: 20,915 people. That's nearly 18,000 more than those the Pinochet regime killed in 17 years; that's 10,000 more than the number of people killed in Brazil's favelas in twelve years. That's a depressing but important reminder that the war in Colombia is ongoing, it is real, and is still extremely violent.
-In Uruguay, former foreign minister Juan Carlos Blanco (who served during Uruguay's dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s) was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his role in the disappearance of a Venezuelan teacher in 1976, marking yet another victory against dictatorship-era officials in Uruguay.

-In neighboring Paraguay, the government has imposed a 30-day state of emergency to combat an armed leftist group operating out of the country's north. The group, Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo, has launched attacks on government buildings and police stations, and a recent attack left four people dead. Among other things, the 30-day state of emergency will allow the Paraguayan government todetain suspects and ban public meetings in the five provinces affected.
-Paraguay is not alone in facing a governmental crisis. In Nicaragua, a showdown between the judiciary and Daniel Ortega is intensifying, after two judges refused to resign in the face of Daniel Ortega's questionable use of an allegedly-expired law, leading to an increasingly uncertain situation in Nicaragua. As Greg points out, it's not a question of leftism; many view Ortega's move as an increasing tendency towards dictatorship, with one critic going so far as to declare that Nicaragua had gone "From Somocismo without Somoza to Somocismo with Ortega."
-Honduras has established a truth commission to look into the coup of last June. However, the commission is already off to a rocky start, with criticisms coming from all sides (including the suggestion of an "alternative truth commission" from non-pro-government individuals). Among the more problematic aspects of the commission: a leading member of the commission's formation declared the report would be archived for 10 years upon completion, meaning nobody would see the commission's findings for ten years. As the good folks over at Honduras Culture and Politics put it, this is effectively an effort to "hide the truth for ten years."
-Evo Morales has offended Brazilian farmers after the Bolivian president declared that eating chicken reduced masculinity and could lead to homosexuality. The claims are silly but fairly unimportant in terms of evaluating Morales's political agenda (though it does say something about societal views of homosexuality and homophobia in Bolivia). Still, given how much agriculture Brazil produces and supplies to the rest of Latin America, including Bolivia, I wouldn't really want to actively alienate any major food producer in Brazil.
-Finally, in doubly-depressing daily news out of Brazil: a 24-year-old housewife was lynched in Rio de Janeiro state yesterday after she ran over a pregnant woman while driving drunk. While the pregnant woman survived, the baby was lost, and in anger, a crowd gathered and shot the housewife. Certainly, drunk driving is not acceptable, but the crowd's response is far more unacceptable.