During a visit to Brasilia on June 17, US vice president Joe Biden presented Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff with 43 declassified US State Department documents referring to abuses committed under the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The handover of the documents, which will go to Brazil's National Truth Commission (CNV), was part of an effort to mend relations with Brazil after revelations in 2013 that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on Brazilian government agencies and on President Rousseff herself. The NSA revelations led to Brazil's cancellation of a planned state visit to the US in September 2013 and to the US manufacturer Boeing Co's loss of a $4 billion fighter jet contract with the Brazilian air force. (Reuters, June 17)
Officials in Brazil warned June 26 that isolated indigenous groups in the Amazon rainforest face imminent "tragedy" and "death" following a rash of sightings in the remote area near the border with Peru. Experts with Brail's indigenous affairs agency FUNAI say the "uncontacted" indigenous bands are fleeing towards the border in response to incursions by illegal loggers into their lands. Asháninka communities in Acre state report a growing number of previously isolated bands appearing in their territories. FUNAI official José Carlos Meirelles said: "Something very serious must have happened. It isn't usual for such a large group of uncontacted indigenous people to approach in this manner. It is a disturbing and completely new situation, and right now we do not know what has provoked it."
Brazilian federal judge Claudio Henrique de Pina has revoked Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining Corp.'s environmental license for the construction of the $750 million Volta Grande open-pit gold mine near the Xingu river in the northern state of Pará, the federal Public Ministry office in the state announced June 25. Upholding a suspension ordered last November, the judge ruled that Belo Sun had failed to address "negative and irreversible" impacts the mine would have on three indigenous groups in the area, the Paquiçamba, Arara da Volta Grande and Ituna/Itatá. The communities are already under threat from the construction of the Belo Monte dam, which will cut water flows by 80% to 90% when it goes into operation, according to the government's National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI).
The governments of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad reached an agreement on June 9 with the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) ending the threat that the group's protests would disrupt the June 12 opening game of the 2014 World Cup soccer championship. Officials agreed to build some 2,000 housing units in vacant private land where about 4,000 homeless people had set up an encampment, "The People's Cup," near the site of the first game, São Paulo's Arena Corinthians. The land occupation started a month earlier as a protest against the allocation of money to sports events rather than inexpensive housing. The MTST also won greater flexibility in the implementation of a federal housing program and a commitment to create a federal commission to prevent forced displacements of homeless people. In exchange the MTST in effect agreed to end its mobilizations, which were the largest of the protests that swept São Paulo in previous weeks.
Transit workers started an open-ended strike in São Paulo on June 5, just one week before the city, Brazil's largest, was to host the opening game of the June 12-July 13 World Cup soccer championship. According to the Subway Workers Union, the strike had paralyzed 30 of the city's 60 subway stations as of June 6; some 20 million people live in the São Paulo metropolitan area, and the subways carry about 4.5 million riders each day. Angry riders smashed turnstiles the first day of the strike at the Itaquera station, near the Arena Corinthians, the site of the June 12 game. The next day, on June 6, police agents used nightsticks and tear gas on strikers at the central Ana Rosa station when they refused to move their picket line; at least three unionists were injured.
At least three cars, including a police vehicle, were set ablaze in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Complexo do Alemão on April 29 after the fatal shooting of an elderly woman—the latest in a series of such outbreaks as Brazilian authorities attempt to clean up Rio's slums before the World Cup games open next month. Arlinda Bezerra de Assis, 72, died after being shot in the stomach during a gun battle between police and presumed gang members. In another incident on April 23, the favela violence actually spilled into Rio's posh beachfront tourist districts—an unprecedented occurrence that doubtless struck fear deep into the hearts of the city fathers. The protests broke out in the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela, perched on the hills overlooking the famed Copacabana district. The riots were sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, 25, a popular dancer on Brazil's Globo TV network, had been discovered in the favela—apparently killed as "collateral damage" in another one of the frequent police shoot-outs with drug gangs. Residents swept down into Copacabana, setting fires and hurling bottles at police, vehicles and businesses. The violence also spilled over into nearby Ipanema, another posh tourist district. The young dancer's funeral two days later also exploded into a riot, as mourners blocked traffic after leaving the Sao Joao Batista cemetery, chanting "Justice! Justice! Police murderers!" Police used tear-gas to clear the intersection. The Military Police "pacification" campaign aimed at getting the favelas under control ahead of the World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics looks like it may be backfiring horribly. (World Bulletin, April 29; AFP, April 25; Daily Mail,VOA, April 23)
A new report issued by Peruvian NGO Environmental and Natural Resrouces Law (DAR) counts 412 hydro-electric dams to be built across the Amazon basin and its headwaters if current plans go ahead, potentially leading to the "end of free-flowing rivers" and contributing to "ecosystem collapse." Of the 412 dams already in operation, under construction or proposed, 256 are in Brazil, 77 in Peru, 55 in Ecuador, 14 in Bolivia, six in Venezuela, two in Guyana, and one each in Colombia, French Guyana and Surinam, said anthropologist Paul Little at the launch of the English version of the report, "Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A Geopolitical and Socioenvironmental Primer." (PDF). The report finds: "This new wave of dam building in the headwaters of the Basin is a 'hydrological experiment' of continental proportions, yet little is known scientifically of pan-Amazonian hydrological dynamics, creating the risk of provoking irreversible changes in rivers." (The Guardian's Andes to the Amazon blog, May 6)
Military Police occupied the favela, or shantytown, of Caramujo, in the city of Niteroi outside Río de Janeiro, following riots sparked by the death of two local youths in incidents with the security forces April 19. One of the victims, Anderson Luiz Santos da Silva, 21, was outside a church with his family on Good Friday when he was hit by a stray bullet—apparently from a shoot-out between police and local drug dealers. His nine-year-old brother was also wounded in the incident. "The young man died trying to protect his mother and sister," said Niteroi's Catholic Church in a statement. The second victim, Emanoel Gomes, 17, was killed when a police armored vehicle crashed his motorbike. Residents set fire to vehicles and battled police, calling for justice. Amnesty International says some 2,000 people die every year in Brazil in careless and violent police actions. The favelas have been targeted for aggressive police action ahead of the World Cup, which Brazil is to host in June. Rio de Janeiro is also slated to host the 2016 Olympics. (Notimérica, April 20; BBC News, April 19)