Category Archives: South America

CPJ honors Ecuadoran journalist in free press fight

The government of Ecuador — like those of Venezuela and Bolivia — has no great love for an independent and free press.

This week The Committee to Protect Journalists honored television anchor, radio host, and reporter Janet Hinostroza from Ecuador for her work in opposing the government’s efforts to stifle independent media. Also honored with the International Press Freedom Award were  Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay, Vietnam), Nedim Şener (Posta, Turkey), and Bassem Youssef (Capital Broadcast Center, Egypt).

Here is an interview with Hinostroza: Fighting for press freedom in Ecuador

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom, South America

Why it matters when a country is heading for collapse

Fareed Zakaria did a great piece today (Sunday, Nov. 17) on how the Venezuelan government is doing everything on the “how to destroy an economy” check list.

Five ways to ruin an economy

Here is the conclusion. (Read or view the whole piece. It is excellent analysis.)

Venezuela is on a fast-track to total ruin. The world saw this coming under Chavez. We hoped for change, but in his dying days Chavez handpicked a “mini-me” to stay the course. The sad truth is that Venezuela is wasting the world’s largest oil reserves. It could have been as wealthy as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It could have outstripped Mexico or Brazil. Instead, it is beginning to resemble North Korea, simply by following the most ruinous set of policies in the world.

Click here to see full video.

But why should Americans care — other than for humanitarian concerns for human rights?

The bottom line is trade/jobs and regional stability.

On trade,

  • Venezuela was the United States’ 26th largest goods export market in 2011.
  • The top export categories in 2011 were: Machinery ($3.0 billion), Electrical Machinery ($1.7 billion), Organic Chemicals ($1.3 billion), Optic and Medical Instruments ($810 million), and Vehicles ($682 million).
  • The five largest import categories in 2011 were: Mineral Fuel and Oil (crude) ($42.0 billion), Organic Chemicals ($309 million), Iron and Steel ($263 million), Aluminum ($169 million), and Fertilizers ($152 million).

Looking at this shows that Venezuela buys American finished products while  the US buys natural resources. Finished products — machinery, vehicles, etc — mean high-paying quality jobs.

The top five U.S. states that export to Venezuela include the ones you might think, Texas, Florida and Louisiana (Numbers 1-3.) But Number 4 is Michigan and Number 5 is California. A collapse of the Venezuelan economy could mean more joblessness across the USA.

On regional stability, let’s face it, fighting the transportation of illegal drugs is a key component. And Venezuela is the major source for the shipping of drugs to North America and Europe. (Venezuela: Where the Traffickers Wear Military Uniforms)

There are also humanitarian and business issues.

With jobs across the United States at risk and humanitarian concerns growing, more and proper coverage of Venezuela is needed.

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Filed under International News Coverage, South America, Story Ideas, Trade

FARC: Rebels or just thugs

The latest news of the narco-trafficking operation known as FARC in Colombia is that the Colombian government revealed FARC was planning to kill former president Alvaro Uribe. (Colombia uncovers Farc plot to kill ex-president Uribe)

The BBC — and most media outlets — call FARC a “rebel” organization. 

The definition of “rebel” is pretty straight forward: 

“a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler.”

Synonyms for the word include: revolutionary, insurgent, revolutionist, mutineer, insurrectionist, insurrectionary, guerrilla, terrorist, freedom fighter.

Now it is true that the FARC have no love for the form of government in Colombia. In fact, they seem to despise any government as much as the Zetas in Mexico or the 18th Street gang in Honduras. 

It is true that FARC started as a political military organization. But the facts are that they are now nothing more than just another narco-trafficking gang looking to consolidate its power through violence and corruption. 

Giving them the title of “rebel” seems to legitimize their actions, or at least excuse them for political reasons.

So, I kind of wish journalists would call the FARC what they are instead of allowing them to come off as some sort of freedom fighters. The form of government they are fighting is democracy. Their actions show them to be just another gang looking to make money and corrupt legal systems.

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Filed under Corruption, International News Coverage, South America

Getting it right: FARC is a narco-gang

For some reason a number of groups in the USA — and reporters — keep referring to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in its Spanish acronym) as a revolutionary insurgency.

This really has to stop. It confuses the situation and clouds much larger issues.

In the beginning it was a leftist armed group that fought against what they saw as corrupt and repressive governments in Colombia. However, as Colombian democracy became more inclusive and addressed the issues of poverty and security, the FARC became just another criminal organization, financing its operations with kidnappings, extortion and drug running.

The latest example comes from Costa Rica, where  four alleged FARC rebels were arrested with 400 kilos of cocaine and 35 weapons.

By and large the Colombian government is a worthy partner with the United States and Europe. (There have been problems of human rights violations that are being addressed by the world and by the Colombians.)

The Colombians want to end the instability caused by FARC  (and the para-military groups). They want to stem the corrupting influence of the drug runners — most of whom now fly out of Venezuela with impunity. And they want the Colombian economy to prosper.

FARC is no more leftist or revolutionary any more than the Cosa Nostra is just a group of immigrants providing protection to fellow immigrants.

The FARC is an international criminal force that is weakening the democratic institutions in Colombia the same way the drug cartels did in the past, through intimidation, violence and corruption. To call them anything other than a gang hellbent on the overturning of a democratic government does disservice to the English language.

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Filed under Corruption, South America

New transparency law gives Brazilian voters look at corrupt practices

Great little piece on a new law is drawing attention to stuff Brazilian lawmakers tried to keep hidden. And it shows how getting even the weakest freedom/right of information law or transparency law enacted is a benefit. Once in place, people can use it to its limits and then lobby for changes that make it work even better. (That’s how the US FOI act evolved.)

Will Brazil’s Transparency Law Work?

The recently approved Transparency Law in Brazil has exposed that one-third of the 594 Brazilian federal lawmakers have pending cases in criminal and civil courts. Most of the criminal cases against the Senators and Deputies in Brasília involve corruption charges.

The Transparency Law was approved following the presentation of over one million signatures from the Brazilian people. The purpose of the bill is to expose members of Congress with criminal charges to the public. The law is seen as a filter of allegedly corrupt candidates with the hopes of discouraging them from seeking re-election.

Rest of story

The part I like is the enumeration of the crimes the solons were charged with and how many in each party were charged. (To be sure, being charged in a civil case is nothing. Until you remember that Brazilian law allows individuals to launch civil cases that would be considered criminal cases in other countries.)

The list reveals that 190 of the 594 Brazilian federal lawmakers have at some time been charged in criminal or civil cases. The list of crimes includes manslaughter, degrading practices, abuse of power, administrative illegalities, public funding abuse, and illicit enrichment. There is a total of fourteen different crimes on the list.

Furthermore, no party is absent from the list. PMDB, the largest political party presently in Congress with 101 members, has 36 politicians that have been charged. The ruling PT party of Dilma with 100 lawmakers has 28. PSDB, the main opposition force with 60 members, has 22 with pending charges. PR with 43 members has 14 charges, and PSB of 29 members has 12 charged.

But my favorite is Congressman, Natan Donadon, who is currently in jail but is still an active member of Congress and receiving his salary.

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Filed under Corruption, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, South America