Friday, June 21, 2013

One Million Take to the Streets in Brazil Protests

An estimated one million people have reportedly taken to the streets in numerous Brazilian cities on Thursday evening.

Some 300,000 protesters gathered in Rio de Janeiro to air their grievances while a group of demonstrators in Brasilia attempted to break into several government buildings.

"What am I protesting for?" asked Savina Santos, a 29-year-old civil servant in Sao Paulo. "You should ask what I'm not protesting for! We need political reform, tax reform, an end to corruption, better schools, better transportation. We are not in a position to be hosting the World Cup."

The pressure from the protests led several officials to rescind a proposed public transit fare hike in Rio and São Paulo. Nevertheless, the rallies have intensified in recent days as more people in more locations are participating.

Much like they have done in previous protests throughout the past week, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators and others caught in the crossfire.

‘‘I was leaving a peaceful protest and it’s not the thugs that attack me but the police themselves,’’ said protester Michele Menezes who was supposedly bleeding and with her hair singed after the explosion of a tear gas canister shot by Rio police.

The police crackdown has been criticized as heavy-handed yet the only known fatality from the protests occurred when a driver ran over several protesters in São Paulo.

President Dilma Roussef cancelled a planned state trip to Japan next week and called for an emergency meeting of her cabinet on Friday morning. Her approval rating dipped by eight points before the protests, which might explain why she's allegedly "offering careful words of conciliation" instead of taking a more adversarial tone.

The rallies throughout Brazil come against the backdrop of the Confederations Cup, a soccer tournament that serves as preparation for the World Cup. The demonstrations are raising questions over security weeks before a planned visit from Argentine-born Pope Francis, and over a year ahead of the World Cup ad presidential elections. Nevertheless, an International Olympic Committee statement issued on Thursday claimed, "The Olympic Games in 2016 will bring significant benefits to the whole population of Rio, improving the city in terms of transport, infrastructure and social housing, as well as bringing a considerable sporting legacy for Brazil."

According to a Datafolha poll taken this week, 84% of São Paulo demonstrators don't back any political party, 77% have a higher education and 71% are first-time demonstrators. Most of them were opposed to the now-withdrawn toll fare hike while two out of five protesters wanted to call attention to government corruption.< r />

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daily Headlines: June 20, 2013

* Puerto Rico: The San José Church in Old San Juan was included on a National Trust for Historic Preservation of the most endangered historic places in the U.S.

* Ecuador: Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino claimed that the Ecuadorian government would consider granting asylum to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

* Argentina: Soccer superstar Lio Messi and his father have been reportedly charged with roughly $5.4 million in tax fraud by a Spanish judge today.

* Cuba: According to the State Department the U.S. and Cuba agreed to restart migration talks that have been stalled since 2011.

Video Source – YouTube via user preservationnation

Online Sources- Bernama; Reuters; USA Today

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Video Critical of Brazilian World Cup Becomes Viral

Street protests continued in several major Brazilian cities on Wednesday including police firing tear gas at some 30,000 demonstrators before the Mexico-Italy Confederations Cup match in Fortaleza.

Numerous images of the protests have become widely circulated such as a photo taken of a Rio de Janiero policeman firing pepper spray at close range in the face of a shocked and possibly terrified woman.

Hundreds of videos depicting the rallies as well as people's reactions to them have been uploaded on YouTube and other websites.  One video recorded before the protests, however, has gained viral status and received approximately 1.8 million hits in only three days:

The video was made by Brazilian filmmaker Carla Dauden and describes her ire over Brazil hosting the World Cup next year.

"Suddenly there is all this money available to build new stadiums and the population is led to believe the World Cup is the change they need for their lives to get better. But the truth is that most of the money from the games and the stadiums goes straight to Fifa and we don't see it so we don't get it and the money from tourists and investors goes to those who already have money," said Dauden who was born in Florianópolis and lives in the U.S.

Daily Headlines: June 19, 2013

* Cuba: U.S. President Barack Obama claimed today that he would increase efforts to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while over 150 doctors requested in an open letter permission to treat hunger-striking inmates.

* U.S.: A report by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that comprehensive immigration reform would benefit the U.S. economy and reduce the federal deficit by nearly $200 million in ten years.

* Latin America: Costa Rica and the U.S. edged closer to qualifying for the World Cup after victories on Tuesday night against Panama and Honduras respectively.

* Mexico: Government officials announced the launching next year of a new satellite that will provide expanded broadband service covering several Latin American countries.

Video Source – YouTube via Deutsche Welle 

Online Sources- CNN; Reuters; The Guardian; Fox News Latino; France24

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Daily Headlines: June 18, 2013

* Brazil: Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Brazil’s main cities on Monday in the latest round of protests over several gripes including public transit price hikes and the use of state funds in the building of World Cup venues.
* Venezuela: President Nicolas Maduro reportedly discussed crime and hunger at a Vatican meeting with Pope Francis, while opposition figure Henrique Capriles sent a letter to the Pope that highlighted human rights abuses in Venezuela.

* U.S.: In a 7-2 vote the U.S. Supreme court struck down an Arizona voting registration law that opponents claimed discouraged Latinos from voting.

* Peru: “What we are trying to do is defend and keep the lake, so that is why we will be camping at the site indefinitely,” said one of the organizers of a march opposed to a planned $4.8 billion gold and copper mine in northern Peru.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- ABC News; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; Gulf Times; Reuters; France24

Monday, June 17, 2013

Brazil: Thousands Protest Near Confederations Cup Venues

The Confederations Cup of soccer began in Brazil over the weekend with a convincing win by the host country and one-goal losses by Mexico and Uruguay.  Yet the real action occurred off the field as thousands of Brazilians protested outside some of the tournament’s venues.

Approximately 600 people gathered outside of the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday to air numerous grievances including a proposed fare hike to the public transit system.  Police responded by launched tear gas and rubber bullets at the multitude.

“I’m with my nervous and sick children and a pregnant women. People can protest but they and the police need to remember that this is a park with children”, said Frederico Junior who was near the stadium when the police acted against the crowd.

The incident outside of the Maracana occurred one day after several of the 500 protesters outside the recently built National Stadium in Brasilia clashed with local police.

"We don't need the World Cup" and "We need money for hospitals and education" read some of the banners used by demonstrators upset at the use of billions of dollars in public funds to build venues for the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup.

“Brazilian society was explicitly told in 2007 that all of the money spent on stadiums would be private money. It hasn't worked out that way at all. More than 90% of the money being spent on football stadiums is public money,” said BBC soccer correspondent Tim Vickery.  

The protests also extended beyond Brazil to intentional cities such as New York, Sydney and Madrid. 

“Sorry for the inconvenience.  We’re building a new Brazil,” read one sign held by some of the estimated 2000 demonstrators in the Irish capital of Dublin.

Daily Headlines: June 17, 2013

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro signed into law a gun control bill aimed at lowering high crime rates including some 3400 murders in the first three months of this year.

* Honduras: The political party headed by ousted former President Manuel Zelaya nominated his wife, Xiomara Castro, as a presidential candidate in elections scheduled for next November.

* Ecuador: The federal legislature passed a controversial bill supporters believe will break up private media “monopolies” but that opponents feel is a danger against press freedoms.

* Guatemala: Authorities blamed drug traffickers for the massacre of eight police officers in the western province of Quetzaltenango.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English (This video was uploaded on March 2, 2012).

Online Sources- Al Jazeera English; The Guardian; Raw Story; GlobalPost