Leaks show massive US spying throughout Americas

US intelligence agencies have carried out spying operations on telecommunications in at least 14 Latin American countries, according to a series of articles the Brazilian national daily O Globo began publishing on July 7. Based on classified documents leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden, the articles reported that the main targets were Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The US also spied "constantly, but with less intensity," on Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, the newspaper said. Brazil and Colombia, a major US ally, have both officially demanded explanations from the US.

Brazil: unions respond to protests with general strike

Tens of thousands of Brazilian workers participated in a one-day general strike in 20 or more cities on July 11, with strikers holding generally peaceful rallies and marches that blocked highways and bridges at dozens of points throughout the country. The strikers' demands included the reduction of the work week from 44 to 40 hours; a speeding up of the agrarian reform program; greater public funding for health and education; control of inflation; and changes in economic policy. The action, the National Day of Struggles, was called by the six main labor confederations, including the Unified Workers Central (CUT), which is affiliated with the center-left Workers Party (PT) of President Dilma Rousseff. The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the National Students Union (UNE) backed the strike. 

Brazil: Rousseff offers protesters a plebiscite

On June 24 Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff began a week of meetings with various groups—youths, unionists, campesinos, political party leaders, state governors, congressional leaders and Supreme Court members—in response to the massive protests that broke out in the middle of the month. Rousseff initially proposed a plebiscite on holding a constituent assembly to reform the Constitution, but she quickly dropped the idea. Instead, she proposed a plebiscite that would allow voters to choose from various options in three areas: public financing of political campaigns, methods of electing legislators and voting by party list. The vote would be held by October.

Brazil: 10 dead as police raid favela

At least 10 people were killed June 25 when elite troops from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) of Brazil's Military Police raided the Nova Holanda favela in Rio de Janeiro's sprawling northern district Complexo da Maré. Authorities said the deaths occurred following a gun battle between police and criminals taking advantage of protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal. One police officer was reportedly among the dead. Protests continue throughout the city; on the day of the clash, hundreds blocked streets for several hours in the outlying districts of Capao Redondo and Campo Limpo. The following day, violence exploded as some 100,000 marched in Belo Horizonte, where Brazil played Uruguay in Confederations Cup semi-finals. Stores were looted, vehicles burned, and one protester killed when he fell from an overpass. (Zero Hora, AP, June 27; Al Jazeera, June 26; Correio do Brasil, June 25)

Brazil: protests continue despite concessions

The massive protests that have shaken Brazil for more than a week continued on June 22, although on a smaller scale than during the previous two days. The largest actions of the day focused on the protesters' objection to the allocation of money to preparations for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympic Games while health, education, transportation and infrastructure remain underfunded. Some 70,000 people marched on the soccer stadium in the country's third largest city, Belo Horizonte in the eastern state of Minas Gerais, where the Mexican and Japanese teams were playing. "World Cup for whom?" and "FIFA out!" the marchers chanted, referring to the International Federation of Association Football, which sponsors the championship. Police agents used tear gas to keep the protesters from approaching the stadium. In Salvador de Bahia, in the impoverished northeastern state of Bahia, about 12,000 protesters marched on the Fonte Nova stadium, site of a soccer match between Brazil and Italy. Some protesters carried signs with cartoons of business owners and sports association directors sitting on big bags of money.

Brazil: tensions had been growing before protests

Although commentators expressed surprise at the size and spontaneity of the protests that swept Brazil in the third week of June, leftist and grassroots organizations had been focusing on some of the issues for some time. In May groups in Rio de Janeiro issued a report highlighting the displacement of thousands of families to make way for facilities to be used in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Impacted communities in Rio were planning to hold a "People's Cup Against the Removals" on June 15, the day that the Confederations Cup soccer matches were to start in Brazil in the lead-up to the World Cup next year. The grassroots event, which included amateur soccer matches, an exhibit of photos and videos, political discussions and cultural events, was intended to build ties among the affected communities. (Adital, Brazil, June 13)

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.  

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