Southern Cone

Brazil: where is the protest movement heading?

Soon after massive protests started spreading in Brazil in mid-June, Spanish-language media began calling the protesters los indignados—"the angry ones," or "the indignant ones," a reference to May 2011 anti-austerity protests in Spain. It was obvious to most commentators that the Brazilian uprising fit into a pattern of spontaneous mass protests in response to the ongoing world economic crisis: the "Arab Spring" of early 2011, the Spanish protests, Occupy Wall Street in the US, demonstrations for free education in Chile and in Canada's Quebec province, and the more recent protests in Greece and Turkey.

Brazil comes to Zuccotti Park

New York's Zuccotti Park, which three weeks ago was filled with Turkish protesters in solidarity with the Istanbul uprising, today filled up with Brazilians gathering in support of the protests that have for days been shaking São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and other cities. One banner reflected the multi-issue scope of the protests: "PRES. ROUSSEFF: HANDS OFF PROTESTERS! TAX THE RICH, BUILD SCHOOLS! BRAZILIAN TROOPS OUT OF HAITI!" Many wore matching t-shirts reading "Não é só por 20 centavos" (It isn't just 20 cents)—a popular slogan of the movement, referring to the transit fare hikes that sparked the protest wave. Protesters are demanding an investigation into corruption around the $15 billion that has been spent in preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, with new stadiums going up in several cities and poor residents being evicted to make way for them. (See The Guardian, June 18) New York area Brazilians plan to return to Zuccotti tomorrow and march on the United Nations on Tuesday June 25. The gathering drew some support from Occupy Wall Street activists; one sported a sign reading: "BRAZIL, TURKEY, GREECE—IT'S YOUR TURN, AMERICA!" The New York protests are being coordinated through the Facebook page Democracia não tem Fronteiras/ Democracy without Borders.  

Argentina: ex-president gets prison term —almost

The Court of Cassation of Argentina, the highest criminal court, sentenced former president Carlos Menem to seven years on June 14 for illegal weapons sales to Croatia and Ecuador during his presidency. Now-senator Menem pleaded innocence, claiming that the weapons were intended for Panama and Venezuela but were stolen and sold to parties that violated the country's peace agreements (PDF) and UN embargoes. The lower court initially acquitted Menem and 17 other defendants last year on a series of charges. On appeal, however, the Court of Cassation sentenced 12 of those defendants to prison time and remanded the case in light of what is described as "overwhelming evidence." Menem, now 82, receives immunity as a public servant. The court urged his fellow representatives to strip him of this privilege, but recent scandals involving his colleagues may make it difficult for a majority of senators to establish that precedent. Furthermore, under Argentina law, all prisoners over 70 have the right to serve penal time at home. Thus, even if the senate does relinquish Menem's immunity, he will most likely never serve time behind bars.

Argentina: eight activists arrested in mine protest

The Argentine branch of international environmental organization Greenpeace marked World Environment Day—a UN-sponsored event held each June 5—with a protest highlighting damage that the pro-mining policies of José Luis Gioja, governor of the northwestern province of San Juan, could have on Argentina's San Guillermo Biosphere Reserve. Eight Greenpeace activists climbed the Civic Center building in the city of San Juan and unfurled a 20-meter banner with a photograph of a puma and a caption reading: "Gioja: no mining in San Guillermo." The activists were arrested and taken to the central police station.

Chile: Barrick Gold mine may be delayed for years

On May 24 Chile's environmental regulator, Juan Carlos Monckeberg, ordered a suspension of construction at the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation's giant Pascua Lama mine because of violations of environmental laws. He also fined the company $16 million, the largest penalty Chile has ever imposed for an environmental violation. Monckeberg told the Reuters wire service on May 30 that the company would probably require one to two years to make the repairs that would allow it to resume construction.

Latin America: marchers reject Monsanto, back food sovereignty

According to organizers, hundreds of thousands of environmentalists and other activists participated in marches in 436 cities and 52 countries on May 25 to protest the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company, whose products include genetically modified (GM) seeds and the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup. The global March Against Monsanto generated events in countries including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 26, some from AFP, Prensa Latina)

Argentina war crimes suspect arrested in Uruguay

Col. Alberto Julio Candiotti, a former Argentinian military officer who was wanted for crimes committed during the country's 1976-1983 "Dirty War," was arrested May 23 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Information for the whereabouts of the 68-year-old, who was residing in the city with his wife, was valued at 100,000 pesos (USD $20,000). The former officer was arrested by Uruguay's National Police. Authorities are currently uncertain whether Candiotti sneaked into the country or falsified documents to gain admittance.

Argentina: ex-dictator Videla dies in prison

Former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) died the morning of May 17 in the Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires province, where he was serving a 50-year sentence for crimes against humanity. He was 87. Videla led the coup that removed then-president Isabel Perón from office on Mar. 24, 1976 and started a period of military rule that lasted until 1983. Videla himself was made de facto president on March 29, 1976 and held the office until March 1981, when he was replaced by Gen. Roberto Viola.

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