SLAVERY IN LATIN AMERICA
Yesterday, July 30, was World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and in Latin America, about 1.8 million men and women work for little or no pay as forced laborers, according to 2012 estimates by the International Labor Organization. (Globally, 21 million people are trapped in some form of forced labor.)
Brazil announced plans to use drones in its fight against slave labor in rural areas, reports Reuters, which was announced on the Ministry of Labors' blog. "Six drones equipped with cameras [will] monitor suspicious activities starting next month in the state of Rio de Janeiro." Every six months the government has published a blacklist of companies using slave labor but recently, publication of the list "has been halted by an injunction brought by a body representing real estate developers." Last year, OAS SA, the company that built stadiums for Brazil's World Cup, and Odebrecht, Latin America’s largest construction company, had been on the list. Separately: Vice and The Daily Beast place the drones story in a bit of a larger context. (Ten years ago, there was private/public effort called National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor in Brazil.)
The news last week from Peru about the rescue of 26 children, ten women and three men who were held as slaves for up to 30 years by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), is reviewed by The Economist. Several individuals were from the Ashaninka indigenous communities who were growing food for the guerrillas. Canal N reports that The operation was due to a separate hostage who had heard the cries of women and children and later escaped his imprisonment. About 300 fighters still lead an active Sendero faction in the valleys of the Apurímac in southern Peru. "Some analysts argue that the guerrillas are now indistinguishable from drug traffickers," writes The Economist.
The ILO's most report on slavery in Brazil is from 2009. Anti-Slavery's most recent document on contemporary forms of slavery in Brazil and Peru are from 2006.
UPDATE ON EL SALVADOR
Buses in San Salvador have began circulating again on Thursday, according to AFP. Local papers like La Prensa Grafica and El Diario de Hoy suggest that the boycott is losing steam. However, the Twitter feed of El Salvador's Armed Forces, @FuerzArmadaSV, leaves no doubt that this has come as a result of a significant militarization of the streets of the city. According to the BBC (with video) "the government in El Salvador has provided military and police escorts for bus drivers forced to go on strike by powerful criminal gangs." Most reports include the gangs demand to be included in a commission examining ways of stemming urban violence.
Last week there were violent attacks including a grenade thrown at the Sheraton Hotel. And the US Embassy issued a note to its' citizens warning of 'Increased Risk of Crime and Violence'. While President Sanchez Ceren has blamed the latest violence on a gang called Barrio 18, it seems clear that these recent events have larger systemic causes. Yesterday, Refugees International released their report, 'It’s a Suicide Act to Leave or Stay': Internal Displacement in El Salvador (16pp), which comes with recommendations for the Salvadoran government, for the USA government and for neighbors in Central America, according to a press release. Gangs have played a leading role in driving families from their homes to seek refuge in other countries, according to a review of the report by Reuters.
New media have connected this story to loud headlines: "El Salvador Is In Serious Trouble" blares Fusion; "The Street Gangs More Vicious Than ISIS", suggests the Daily Beast. This last story cites a column in El Pais with grisly details about what criminal gangs do to their victims.
- Guatemalan presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón (LIDER) recently refused to give interviews to local media choosing to go with CNN. Independent news site NOMAD's summary of the interview, 'Baldizón: 14.5 Lies in 7.23 seconds on CNN' went viral. Consequently, CNN invited NOMAD's editor to 'fact check' the Baldizón interview, point-by-point.
- Five former Chilean army soldiers have been charged over the burning of two teenagers during a 1986 protest against the military government of Gen Augusto Pinochet, according to the BBC. One of the teens later died of his injuries in a Chilean hospital. "The attack is considered one of the most prominent cases of human rights abuse of the era." The story took a turn recently when one of the witnesses, a young conscript then, met with the mother of the deceased photographer and spoke of what he saw, according to a Chile Vision broadcast. As a consequence, a call has been made not only to end the continued privileges, including immunity, by the military, but also to process charges against civilians who served in the Pinochet government, according to 24 Horas.
- Venezuelans are having a tough time making international phone calls as telephone carriers fall behind on payments to international partners amid a currency crisis that is leaving the country increasingly cut off from the rest of the world, reports the Associated Press. Movistar, the nation’s largest private operator, now allows calls to only 10 countries. "The changes have not been formally announced. Instead, Venezuelans are making the unhappy discovery when they dial an international number and bump into an ominous pre-recorded error message." Internet services like Skype is not a solution as "many people don’t have easy access to WiFi."
- Polar, Venezuela's largest food distributor, denounced the government occupation of a warehouses while the Maduro government accused the company of hoarding goods and intentionally creating shortages, according to the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, and Reuters. The complex is also used by PepsiCo, CocaCola. and Nestle. Reuters adds that Polar is the country's largest private employer - 2000 people are employed in this plant alone - and reminds that "Hugo Chavez expropriated several warehouses from Polar." The Guardian focuses more on the looming beer shortage rather than on the expropriation. "The head of Venezuela’s liquor store federation warned the nation was about to run out of beer because producers had reached 'zero hour' amid widespread shortages in raw materials. ... Days later he was detained for reasons that remain unclear." However, there are no signs of shortages on shelves so far of beer.
- Venezuela's government has decided not to allow the OAS to monitor the December elections, reports El Pais.
- Poverty in Mexico has increased on the beginning of the presidential term of Enrique Pena Nieto with two million Mexicans joining this situation between 2012 and 2014, according to CONEVAL, the government agency that evaluates social policies, and reported on by the Financial Times. Mexico’s overall poverty rate in 2014 "rose to 46.2% of the population from 45.5% - an increase of 2 million people."
- Colombia's Semana magazine wonders what the impact of videos on smart phones may have on the upcoming elections.
- While a Mexican judge has issued an order to extradite fugitive drug lord Joaquin ]El Chapo[ Guzman to the United States if he is recaptured, according to the AFP and Reuters, the Daily Post gives 5 reasons why 'El Chapo' probably won't be recaptured anytime soon.
- The Inter-American Dialogue has published an education-related report, Learning for All: An Urgent Challenge in Latin America which acknowledges the region's advancement in terms of educational coverage and access, and has "increasingly incorporated the most marginalized sectors into the education system" but argues that students "are simply not learning at acceptable levels," according to a press release.
- While the United States now has an embassy in Cuba, the trade embargo paradoxically remains, according to the Washington Post. Secretary of State Kerry will travel to Havana for the Aug 14 ceremony to raise the U.S. flag over the embassy, which is already "the largest diplomatic mission in the country." The Miami Herald reports that at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy there is a consensus that success for this new policy "depends on the Cuban government’s response and the pace and breadth of its ongoing economic reforms." Still, the conference has "generated more questions than answers." Some things change slower than others. The Miami Herald's editorial continues to oppose he 50-plus-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba because "Cuba hasn’t earned the embargo’s end."
- The Economist reviews the presidential race in Argentina between likely candidates Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires, and Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province. Political parties hold primaries to select their presidential candidates on August 9. (A third candidate, Sergio Massa, from the Justicialist Party, is now far behind in the polls.) President Fernández has "thrown her support behind Mr Scioli, who was Argentina’s vice-president when her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, was president."
- Brazilian military considered invading Uruguay to prevent the left from coming to power in 1971. This information, gathered by U.S. intelligence decades ago, was shared by the United States to President Rousseff during her recent visit to Washington, according to Carta Capital.
- Mexico drinks more alcohol than India, despite having only 10% of India's population, according to The Economist.