Friday, August 26, 2011

Top Stories: August 26th 2011

  • The unemployment rate in Brazil fell to its lowest level this year at 6%, down from 6.2% in July. Also, average real wages rose 4% since last year. Concerns about inflation and a rapidly growing economy have led the central bank to raise interest rates up to 12.5%.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the International Monetary Fund urged Chile on Wednesday to cut spending further to ‘ensure macroeconomic stability,’ after increasing spending in 2009 to combat a recession.
  • Two union leaders, Larry Cohen and Leo Gerard, from the Communications Workers of America and the United Steelworkers, asked the House Select Intelligence Committee to investigate allegations that the Colombian government misused U.S. funding, endangering labor activists. Unions and many Democratic lawmakers argue that the possible misuse of funds underscores the dangers and illegitimacy of entering into a free trade agreement with Colombia, especially given that the agreement lacks appropriate protection for workers and labor activists.
  • Piedad Cordoba, a former Colombian senator, will be pressing charges through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for ‘political persecution.’ Cordoba was barred from holding public office for 18 years amid allegations that she had ties to the FARC.
  • Pablo Peréz is vying to compete with Chávez for the top spot in the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections. The coalition of opposition parties, the MUD, still has yet to choose a candidate and it is unclear how likely Peréz is to receive that vote in the February 12th primary. Chavéz continues to hold a firm grip on national support, despite his very public battle with cancer and difficult economic problems.
  • More than fifty people were killed yesterday in a casino fire in Monterrey, where alleged members of an undisclosed drug cartel doused the building in gasoline and then lit it on fire. At least 53 people were trapped inside and killed. According to the AP, drug cartels sometimes extort local casinos and businesses, threatening to destroy them if they do not pay.
  • In an effort to facilitate the transport of goods from Brazil to the Pacific Ocean, the Bolivian government continues to support a highway construction project through a tropical national park, home to many independent indigenous communities. One 177 km. section of the road would run directly through the TIPNIS national park, which, according to IPS, ‘covers more than one million hectares and is collectively owned by some 15,000 people from three indigenous groups.’ Critics and protestors of the project argue that it violates the 2009 Bolivian constitution, which grants broad rights to the indigenous majority population.
  • NACLA interviews Carlos Amaya, the son of a well-known Honduran novelist—Ramon Amaya Amador, and grassroots activist. He comments on the leftist political movement in Honduras, the resistance since the coup that led to the Micheletti regime, and internal debates within the resistance.
  • The US government will now allow Mexican police to cross the border in order to stage drug raids from inside the U.S., further increasing its role in the drug war, reports the NY Times.
  • Amid efforts to receive full membership in the United Nations, Palestine was recognized by El Salvador as an independent state. El Salvador’s President, Mauricio Funes, said that the decision was made in support of establishing peace in Israel.
  • A court ruling in Colombia on Wednesday took some initial steps towards loosening the country’s extremely harsh, zero-tolerance drug laws. According to El Tiempo and In Sight Crime, the Court ruled that a previous 2009 constitutional amendment making it illegal to possess less than 1,000 grams of marijuana and 100 grams of cocaine was unconstitutional and violated personal freedoms.
  • [Not completely related to Latin America, but interesting nonetheless!] As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, PBS Frontline is preparing to unveil a series of investigative documentary features about the post-9/11 world, and how ‘the White House set the framework for a covert war that would be fought in the shadows,’ examining the ‘secret side of America’s war on terror.’ Watch the preview here.
  • In Brazil, a leader of a landless workers’ group was shot and killed on Thursday, making him the fourth person murdered since May who has been involved in the environmental and land rights movements. According to Catholic Land Pastoral, the killings are usually carried out by gunmen working for loggers, ranchers, and farmers in an effort to silence protestors.