Brazil: indigenous lives not worth a traffic sign
Public prosecutors in Brazil have called on the government to pay 1.4 million reais ($ 630,000) in compensation to a Guarani indigenous community and to install road signs, after eight Guarani were run over and killed. For decades the Guarani of Apy Ka'y community in Mato Grosso do Sul were forced to camp on the side of a perilous main road after they were evicted from their land, which is now occupied by a vast sugar cane plantation. Last year they reoccupied a part of their territory, but the road remains a serious threat. Five of the hit-and-run victims were relatives of the community's leader, Damiana Cavanha, who has been campaigning for the’ ancestral land to be returned. The youngest victim was four years old. Damiana believes they are being deliberately targeted by vehicles belonging to the ranchers occupying their land.
Brazil: campesino protesters occupy banks
Some 3,000 campesinos, including children and seniors, some with musical instruments, staged sit-ins on June 26 in the states of Goiás, Bahía and Piauí at 18 branches of Brazil's two largest state-owned banks, the Banco do Brasil and the Caixa Económica Federal. The day-long protest, organized by the Popular Campesino Movement (MCP), targeted budget cuts in the government's popular low-income housing program, My House My Life; MCP leaders said 950 campesino families had been dropped from My House My Life's National Rural Habitation Program (PNHR). The group demanded an increase in housing construction for the rest of this year, payment for projects already in progress, and improvements in the PNHR for next year. "The campesino families are struggling for a dignified life and don't accept having to wait more time for reform, enlargement [of the program] and construction of housing," the MCP said in a statement. "Waiting longer means increasing the exodus from the countryside and increasing the problems of rural life."
Brazil: US turns over documents on military abuses
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)
Brazil: 'imminent' threat to isolated peoples
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."
Brazil: Canadian gold mine loses license
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).
Brazil: homeless win some in the World Cup
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.
Brazil: strikes and protests greet World Cup
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.
Rio: favela violence spills into Copacabana
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)
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