Brazil

Brazil: indigenous protesters blast land proposal

Some 1,200 Brazilian indigenous activists encircled the Palácio do Panalto, which houses the president's offices, in Brasilia on Dec. 4 in a continuation of protests against proposals to change the way land is demarcated for indigenous groups. Currently the demarcations are worked out by the government's National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), but Congress is considering a measure, Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) 215, which would give other government agencies a role in the process. During the Dec. 4 march a confrontation broke about between some protesters and the Palácio do Panalto security force, which used pepper spray to disperse the group. "Some participants were hospitalized," an indigenous leader, Marcos Xukuru, told the Brazilian news agency Adital. The marchers then moved on to the Justice Ministry and requested an interview with the minister; they were told he was out of the office. (Adital, Dec. 4)

Brazil: protesters target oil auction, transit fare

Hundreds of Brazilian unionists, teachers, students and leftists held a militant demonstration outside the Windsor Hotel in Rio Janeiro's Barra da Tijuca neighborhood on Oct. 21 to protest an auction being held there for rights to develop the Libra oilfield in the Bay of Santos. Denouncing the auction as a partial privatization of the country's largest source of petroleum, the demonstrators attempted to invade the hotel, confronting some 1,100 soldiers backed by agents of the National Security Force, and the federal, civil and militarized police. Protesters, some of them masked Black Bloc activists, fought with the agents, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. At least six people were injured, and a vehicle belonging to the Rede Record television network was set on fire.

Brazil: deadly prison riot sets off angry protests

At least 13 inmates were killed and some 30 injured in a clash between rival gangs Oct. 10 at Pedrinhas prison in São Luis, in Brazil's northeastern state of Maranhão. Authorities said violence broke out after guards discovered inmates digging an escape tunnel. The inmates fought the attacking guards and started a fire, as members of rival gangs took advantage of the confusion to settle scores. Then, as news of the conflagration broke, relatives of inmates gathered outside the prison, demanding information. When this was not forthcoming, they began to throw stones at the guards, took over a roadway, and set several buses on fire.

Mexico: judge suspends GM corn planting

Mexican federal judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo has issued an injunction ordering the Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) not to grant further licenses for the sowing of genetically modified (GM) corn, a group of environmental organizations announced on Oct. 10. Mexican law restricts the use of transgenic corn, but recently the government has greatly expanded the area where GM seeds can be sown in pilot projects by companies like the Monsanto CompanyPioneerSyngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences. Environmentalists want to ban all transgenic corn, which they say threatens both Mexico's biodiversity and the ability of independent farmers to grow organic crops.

Brazil: teachers, indigenous hold mass protests

Despite a heavy rain, tens of thousands of Brazilians marched in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 7 to support local teachers on the 60th day of a strike over pay and benefits. Organizers said 50,000 people participated in what media reports called one of the largest demonstrations since an unprecedented wave of mass protests in June. The immediate issue of the strike was what the teachers considered an inadequate pay and benefit package offered by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, but the demonstration attracted broad support because of widespread anger over police brutality at earlier protests and over the failure of local and national governments to provide services in health and education. "We have support from the people," schoolteacher Aline de Luca told the British daily The Guardian at the march. "Many of those who are here are not education professionals. I am hopeful things will improve, because we have never seen society as mobilized as it is now."

Brazil: documents expose US industrial espionage

On Sept. 8 the "Fantástico" news program on Brazil's Rede Globo television network presented documents indicating that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Brazil's giant semi-public energy company, Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.). The allegations came one week after the same program presented evidence that the NSA had spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. As in the earlier news program, the spying claims were based on documents given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden.

US spied on Brazilian and Mexican leaders

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on emails, phone calls and text messages to and from Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, according to NSA documents presented on Brazil's Globo television network on Sept. 1. These documents, like those made public in July about US spying on at least 14 Latin American nations, were given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in June. Snowden is now residing in Russia; he says he is unable to comment on the documents because of the terms under which Russian authorities are letting him stay in the country for one year.

Brazil: 300 arrested in new round of protests

Some 300 people were arrested and 35 injured when thousands of Brazilians held protests in more than 150 cities on Sept. 7, Brazil's Independence Day. As in massive demonstrations that broke out in June, the protesters on Sept. 7 demanded improvements in healthcare, education and other public services and opposed the large expenditure of government funds to build sports stadiums for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympic Games. The new actions were reportedly much smaller and more violent than the earlier demonstrations.

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