Brazil

Ranchers sentenced in murder of nun

Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: “Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers.” [link]

Also posted in Environment, Human Rights, Side notes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Untethering

Everyone seems to agree that the economies of Latin America are experiencing a nice little recovery. The IMF, for example, just raised its forecasts for the region and is now projecting 4.1% GDP growth for the region, with 4.2% growth for Mexico and 5.5% for Brazil. Oh boy, numbers.

But here’s something interesting.

In an analysis of the region’s sovereign debt prospects (PDF), Fitch Ratings divides the region’s economies into three “camps.” One camp includes countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, whose recovery will be slower than that of the rest of the world for reasons that should surprise no one (high inflation, weak institutions, poor fiscal discipline, if you must know).

In a second camp are countries like Chile, Peru, and Brazil, whose good fiscal discipline, low political risk, and safe investment environments mean their economies will be growing like weeds this year and next.

Then we have the middle camp, which is basically countries that cast their development lot with the United States: Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador. And here’s the interesting part. Fitch projects this group will see only a moderately-paced recovery specifically because they’re tied to the US.

Meanwhile, Fitch says the Chile/Peru/Brazil group is doing particularly well partly because it does more business with China.

So I ask you: At what other point in recent history has easy access and close ties to the US economy been seen as a disadvantage?

(Original image courtesy H. Langos via Wikimedia Commons.)

Also posted in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Economy, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela | Tagged | Leave a comment

Another Google product still in beta


Google appears to be rather proud of its new-found freedom of expression spine. It just released a snazzy new product mapping out the countries in the world whose governments have requested information be removed from one of the company’s products (Blogger, YouTube, etc.).

Unfortunately, in order for numbers to be useful, you need some sort of baseline, and Google’s map doesn’t give us one. Maybe if you combine it with data on the number of people in each country who use the internet?

For example, Argentina has a population of about 40 million, only 28% of whom are connected to the internet. Google in Argentina has received 42 requests to remove information from one of its products, which breaks down to about 0.38 complaints per 100,000 internet users.

Though the raw numbers make it look worse, Brazil is about the same as Argentina, with 0.40 complaints per 100,000 internet users. But Germany beats everyone, with 3.1 removal requests per 100,000 users.

In the end, I’m not really clear on what Google’s trying to tell us. That Germany has greater internet restrictions than Cuba? Or that Brazil’s government is the only one in the world that gives enough of a damn about Google to file legal challenges against it?

The power of interactive mappy-thingies for promoting human rights causes is indeed great, but this is where the engineers should have maybe consulted with a social scientist.

Also posted in Argentina, Human Rights | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Christ the Redeemer tagged


Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue was vandalized by intrepid ne’er-do-wells who scaled scaffolding that was in place for cleaning the statue. Rio’s mayor called the vandalism of the 120-foot statue “a crime against the nation” and promised the vandals “will go to jail.”

Also posted in Arts and Culture, Odd, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, according to a recent report from the U.N. The wealthiest 20% of the population hold 56% of the total wealth. The most unequal countries in the region are Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, with Venezuela and Colombia also fairing particularly badly. [link]

Also posted in Argentina, Colombia, Human Rights, Mexico, Side notes, Uruguay, Venezuela | Leave a comment

Lula for SecGen?

I have no idea if this is credible, but there are rumors that Brazilian President Lula Da Silva is interested in running for U.N. Secretary General after his term ends this year. The Secretary General spot will up for a vote in 2011, though Lula would have to run against incumbent Ban Ki Moon.

This comes from the Times Online quoting mostly “diplomats” and speculation in the Brazilian media, so, you know, salt grain. The closest they come to getting anything on the record is this:

Asked by The Times, Marco Aurélio Garcia, the President’s top foreign policy adviser, declined to rule out the possibility: “He has a great interest in international questions, in the process of integration in South America,” Mr Garcia said. “He has a real passion for Africa. He really wants to do something to help Africa.”

It would be extremely interesting if someone like Lula got the top spot at the U.N. However, diplomacy isn’t supposed to be interesting, and anyway he’s probably stuck his finger in the eye of the Empire one too many times.

(Original image courtesy of Agência Brasil.)

Also posted in Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress has passed a bill to redistribute oil revenue away from oil-producing states. If it goes into law, it would mean a $4 billion loss of revenue for the state of Rio. The move comes as part of the federal government’s attempt to centralize control over “the world’s most important oil discovery in years,” which “could transform Brazil into a global oil power.” [link]

Also posted in Economy, Side notes | Leave a comment

Shopping spree

These ones are on sale.

Two reports were issued recently on Latin American arms purchases. Venezuela has recently given the impression of being particularly spendy on new weapons, perhaps because ex-military man Chávez likes to talk about guns and things. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, however, everyone’s going shopping. Brazil is the region’s biggest buyer of arms, followed by Chile.

The thing that gets me is that in addition to the usual jet fighters and whatnot, everyone is buying tanks. From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report:

A number of states in South America are investing in tanks and armoured vehicles. In September 2009 Venezuela received $2.2 billion in credit from Russia, which will be used to purchase an unknown quantity and type of air defence systems, artillery and armoured vehicles, as well as 92 T­72M1M tanks. In 2009 Brazil began to take delivery of 220 second­ hand Leopard­1A5 tanks from Germany, while Chile completed the acquisition of 140 second­hand Leopard­2A4 tanks, also from Germany. In late 2009 Peru announced that it was planning to sign a deal for 80 MBT­2000 tanks from China.

I guess it’s no crazier than Chile spending US$2.71 billion in 18 F-16s, or Brazil picking up a French nuclear submarine, but at least those weapons have some sort of broader range, added value, use in “diplomatic” displays of force, what-have-you. But tanks?

They’re pretty much only good for parades. Or arms buildups.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Also posted in Chile, Politics, Venezuela | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The sex tape you never wanted

Well, I guess that was bound to happen sooner or later. In Brazil, a priest was caught on video having sex with an alter boy (the alter boy is of-age, though allegedly he wasn’t when the two started their thing). SBT went ahead and put a heavily-blurred version on TV. Thankfully, the ugliest thing you see is the old sick-o’s face. The, um, juicy part is around the two minute mark. Please don’t watch this over breakfast.

The AP has a story on the case if you don’t speak Portuguese. More priests are alleged to be involved. I’m fairly certain I will never let my son enter a Catholic institution without an escort. And maybe a chastity belt.

Also posted in Odd | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Brazil is hitting U.S. imports with trade sanctions in retaliation for U.S.’ illegal cotton subsidies. The tariffs on U.S.-made cars, fresh fruit, food goods, and (of course) cotton will go up. The World Trade Organization awarded Brazil US$829.3 million in annual retaliatory trade restrictions against the U.S. last year. [link]

Also posted in Side notes, Trade | Leave a comment
  • DAILY LINKS

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacío, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaña." [link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre Cantú. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]


    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]